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'Dare il benvenuto a Italia’

... Was the first thing I heard when I stumbled off the plane at Milan airport last Sunday. I tried to unscramble the words in my head, my first test to see how little Italian I remembered since being here in 2009 - ‘Dairy eel ben vennouto a Italia’... Nothing. I’m definitely screwed.

Bags successfully located and squashed onto a trolley, I blindly manoeuvred the vehicle into a bollard causing my pile of luggage to fall to the floor. Cr@p. Sure enough I did it in front of a man who turned out to be my DS. ‘Great’ I thought, he’s probably thinking ‘so THIS is my newest recruit? A non-italian speaking Australian life battler?’ – But no sooner than the thought crossed my mind, he grabbed my face, kissed me on both cheeks, gave me a hug and relieved the trolley from my clutches. What a legend. This was my first reassurance that things were probably going to turn out just fine.

For me it has pretty much been the same story every year – join team, don’t know anyone on said team, make sure the team is in a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know where you’re living… It’s a big gamble to say the least and you never know exactly what you’ve signed up for until you have both feet firmly on the ground, and it’s starring straight back at you. Needless to say the first impressions from my new team for 2012, Faren Honda Women’s Team, were great. And they only got better from there :)

No less than 1hr from peeling my butt of the aeroplane seat I was at the team hotel for the start of the Cittiglio World cup which was being held that day, equipped with a new bike and loads of team swag. It was like Christmas and I think the management staff had their fair share of enjoyment watching me literally ‘squeal’ out loud each time they handed me a new item. I am very excited to get my 2012 Euro season underway, and it definitely showed. Next up was a quick photo shoot in the new kit with some of the sponsors, where the fact that I hadn’t bathed for a day seemed to concern me more than it did them. Meanwhile, cleats were being fitted to my sweet new Sidi kicks and final touches were being done to my bike and by the time the cameras stopped flashing I was taking my new Kuota KOM for its maiden spin. And it felt amazing.

My machine for the season!! I picked it out from the line up because of the sweet name sticker! anddd the fact that it was 2 sizes smaller than the rest of them ;)
New Sidi kicks :)

Shot with the big boss at Kuota - they said showering and brushing your hair is overrated. Apparently

Fast forward 30min and I was sitting with the team at breakfast for their pre-race meals and it wasn’t until I saw food that I was reminded how hungry I was. I looked at the buffet table, looked at my super fit teammates and repeated. Looking around the table, I probably should’ve stopped eating last year… So an espresso for breaky it was! Then it was time for the team meeting, given in Italian, where I was suitably able to perfect the awkward smile as I sat there basically only understanding every second word. I was later reassured that they would translate for me when I started racing! Thank god.

Post meeting, the team scrambled in to the slick looking team cars and we were on our way to the start of the World Cup – and it wasn’t even 12pm yet. At the race, I politely smiled at and kissed no less than half the Italian population as we waited for the race to roll out and from then it was game on.

I was in a car with another local teammate who was not racing, as well as the soigneur and another staff member and we trekked to different vantage points on the loop before settling in at the feedzone and waited for the girls to come past for their 1st of 4 laps of the final circuit. After parking up on the hill, jetlag finally had a chance to catch up with me and I have to admit, I was taking sneaky naps behind my sunnies between passing’s. Each time the group went past I played ‘spot the teammie’ whilst the rest of the staff located said teammie and fed/watered them – it was great to see a number of our girls in the front bunch, I’m definitely going to have to bring my A game to support these girls!

4th time past and we rushed to catch the finish where we learnt that superhuman Marianne Vos had broken away from the field and went on to win solo, leaving a small bunch to battle it out for the minor placings. Someone jokingly said to me that the real winner of the race was Tatiana Guderzo who came in 2nd, because Marianne Vos is in such a different league to everyone else at the moment it doesn’t even seem fair. She’s amazing. Or it could’ve been because of the fact that they were Italian, and so is Guderzo... But I’ll go with the former.

Post-race, the team all gathered together for a debrief and me and my freshly acquired swag were loaded up in to our DS’s schmick Honda CRV and I was driven to my home for the next 6 months: Bellano, a small town on the waterfront at the northern end of Lake Como. I opened the doors of my new home at 8:30pm – 13hrs later. I was knackered. But as I layed in bed on that first night, I struggled to get to sleep as I couldn’t stop thinking of everything that had happened that day. As I mentioned earlier, you rarely ever know what you have gotten yourself in to until its starring back at you in the face – but as I stared at my team suitcase and all my gear I was liking what I saw… Finally proof that 2012 is going to be my first year as a professional cyclist on a UCI team... I can’t wait to pull on that team kit and get on the start line for the first time in Europe.

First ride out on the road. Happy to say the least :)

And for those who are interested, I will be updating my blog more frequently whilst I’m over here however for any team news, race calendar, results etc… please check out my website at :)

Until next time,

Ciao ciao, ciao ciao ciao ciao

M xx

p.s – more photos to come in next post :)