Friday, June 30, 2006

Giro begins...

Unfortunately I have only a few seconds to write, and no time to try and attach photos..I am down near Rome at a place called Isola Faranese for the Giro dell'Italia Donne...the 10 day women's version of the Giro. My team has chosen not to do the Giro and so I am down here with the Australian National Team. It is a little different as you really get into the swing of how your team does things....but its nice to speak some 'Aussie' and get to know some of the up and coming girls of Aussie cycling a little better.

We started yesterday with a 5.2km primarily uphill individual time trial which was a struggle in the afternoon sun. The race had been moved forward 3 hours so that the Italians would all be packed up and ready to watch the soccer at 9pm...Italy vs Ukraine...and they through to the semi-finals...lucky I think or a national day of mourning would be in place.

There is no internet access or phone lines where we are staying really so I am sitting behind the reception desk at the hotel using their computer...they don't seem fazed by this at all! We move tomorrow and hopefully I get the chance to write some more.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Matrimonio Italiano style

So….my first Italian wedding and I was to be a bridesmaid to the groom, a very different concept to how we do it in Australia but then I am beginning to realize that we often do things differently. In Europe it seems that the whole idea of an engagement ring is not nearly as important as at home. Sometimes one is given, but not often and there is no standard protocol as in there must be a diamond involved….here the bridesmaid don’t dress the same, they just wear whatever and at the reception the bride and groom have their own table and the rest of the wedding party sit wherever. So apart from that and the fact that there is lots of very dirty, 21st party style jokes….its all the same, well they get married….maybe that’s the only similarity…but they don’t say ‘I do’, just ‘Si’.

So….pre-wedding there is a separate buffet for the bride and groom’s guests….Massimo was at his parents house and we had 70 people here downstairs at the apartment….it was only 36 degrees, so just lovely J The whole day was much more relaxed than I expected, the wedding was due to start at 5, buffet at 4 but at 12:30pm the bride suggested we all go for aperitif’s at the local bar….so down we all went and sat, had a drink at Bar Roma and relaxed, very nice. Liv and I then headed to the restaurant to set-up, being the dutiful bridesmaids that we were (Liv was Baby’s bridesmaid)…All went to plan, the bride made her appearance and then we headed for the ‘town hall’ of Novellara for the civil service. The bride, dressed in dark red emerged from her Volkswagon mini and the groom, dressed in white was nearly teary…so beautiful was his bride J The ceremony was brief but lovely, they had to agree to sections of the Italian civil code and then the mayor of Novellara spoke about the importance of family, and said some lovely words to the effect that a family is much more than the sum of its parts….a lady was there to translate for the 20 Aussies that had made the trip to Novellara but the mayor forgot to stop to allow her to translate each section and so we were left to understand what we could….all part of the experience…
We headed to the reception at Restaurante Bla’ Bla’…to be greeted by a mountain of prosciutto and many other yummy Italian antipasto dishes. The newly ‘crowned’ husband was fitted with ball and chain by his friends…he was not terribly impressed…but this set the mood for the rest of the night. Joke after joke, usually of a very dirty, dodgily sexual variety…we weren’t sure how mama or nonna would take this but they seemed fine about it. We decided that Australians must be very prudish on the whole…as I can’t imagine that my grandmother needs to know that it is the groom who usually chooses new sexual positions (that was probably the most tame question, I can’t write the best of them as I’m sure it would embarrass my father:))
So after plenty of molto buono food and wine we were all ready to get down and boogie and show the Italians a thing or two....and this we did...lots of dancing to the tunes of the Elvis impersonator singer. Baby got up and said a few very emotionally charged words......the Italians were all very impressed as the bride or groom never normally speak at the wedding... Lots more stories but too many for a blog post...I will have to show everyone the photos at a later date. Tante Auguri to Mr and Mrs is great to have friends all over the world and share moments such as this....I am priviliged that this is my life :)

Craziness in Italy

I have been meaning to write a blog for nearly every day that I have been here in Italy but unfortunately my internet access has been quite where to start? I arrived here last Sunday and on Monday attempted to catch the train down to Novellara with my bike and big bag in tow...the train system here can be either not too bad, or a complete nightmare and unfortunately I had a trip involving the later. The highlight was of course when the train conductor threatened to call the police if I didn't get off the train with my bike. It was 35 degrees, I was sweating up a small river and had already caught 2 trains to get to Milan Centrale so I was a girl and began to cry....not that this helped my cause at all. Anyway...eventually made it down to Reggio Emilia train station with the train being 'in ritardo' (delayed) for 1 hour....but it was great to get here and see the crazy italians - Barbie and Massimo. Their wedding was on the Sunday and we still had some things to finish off but I really enjoyed the in the beautiful hills in the mornings and relaxing and helping out in the afternoons. European summer has well and truly hit and it has been 35 degrees every day since I've been here....a great excuse to eat mountains of gelati :) One of the 'highlights' of my week was when Baby and Massimo took me to the 'Festa della Biera' (Party of beer) that was incorporating 'Ruttosound' (pretty much a big burping competition!), it was quite amusing, a crowd of 30 000 watching as 10 people competed in several different categories...power burping, longest burp and burping out a song....I must say I have never seen anything quite like it.
I must go now as the Italians are closing the bike shop for lunch...I will report on the wedding after lunch...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pretty in blue :)

After the sudden week of summer that hit us in Holland, we had a few cool days to really confuse the body and make us realise that you do have to pack for every occasion. After a steady few days recovering from our athlete day we began a 3 day tour in Zeeland, about one hour south-west of where I live in Holland. The tour was called Ster Zeeuswche Eilanden, a UCI race and important for the Top Competition (equivalent of National Series) for the Dutch girls. The first stage was a 7.2km time trial with the racing beginning at 6:30pm, so we had the whole day to think about it :) I was keen to have a good one as this is normally something that I go quite well in, however the last block of racing had dampened my confidence and I wasn't sure if I could beat grandma down the street on a town bike...But a good one it was. For the first time in a while I felt like I had some power behind me, everyone in the car behind me told me that I lost some seconds on the final corner when I did over-brake in true hubbard style....but still, I ended up 4th and was happy with that. I was given the blue jersey to wear, the jersey for "Most fighting spirit". One of the best things about the jersey, apart from the fact that it matches my eyes (ha ha), is that it enables you to line up at the front of the bunch for the following stage and with 150km on small Dutch goat tracks this is very important.
The next day we had another long wait til 6pm to start racing 135km, so in the morning we took the time to go for a recovery spin and take some team photos as the team hasn't had a chance to be all together yet. It was quite a nice day with no wind and in Holland this is sometimes a bad thing as the races become slow and dangerous. This didn't seem to be the case, as the pace was on from the start, everyone desperate to be at the front and getting in a move. At the end of the day, nothing stayed away and we set up the sprint for Kirstin who was 13 secs off the lead so hungry for the 10 sec time bonus...she won, and we had all contributed to a really successful day. After a late night, it was hard to drag ourselves out of bed the next day to do it all over again, this time the race was 139km and again the weather was good. Kirsten was now within 3 secs off the lead and so we had a bit of a job to do to keep it together and get the sprint bonus seconds. At the end of the day it all came together, we all rode well again to set Kirstin up for win - she won the stage, the tour and has the Top Competition pretty much sewn up. A super effort!
Miesi and I dragged ourselves home, washed, showered and both started packing again. I went down the street to buy some dinner and then we sat out on the terrace - Miesi the German, Mirek the Polski, Natty the Aussie in Nederlands eating Chinese - quite funny when you think about it! I was feeling quite terrible but managed to pack my things and set my alarm for 4:30am - ouch! So here I am writing to you from Italy..I flew down this morning to Milan and am now at the Aussie base in Varese. The World Cup soccer match: Australia vs Brazil is about to begin and I'm glad I get to be in Aussie company for it. Tomorrow I will head down to Novellara to calm Barbie, the nervous bride to be whose wedding I am going to on Sunday. I'm actually the 'bridesmaid' for Massimo the groom, I'm not yet sure what this entails! I will report with photos attached :)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Non athletic athletes!

Today 7 of us from AA Cycling Team attended an AA Athlete's Day at a mini-athletic venue near Utrecht. We weren't sure exactly what the day was going to entail but were told to pack clothes that we could run around in....this couldn't be good! Cyclists are typically very unathletic at anything not regarding their chosen sport....we have puny, weak upper bodies which pretty much eliminates us from anything involving throwing or catching and very specifically trained lower limbs which makes us crapy at anything involving running around (especially in the 'on-season'). In the case of myself I also have no eye-hand co-ordination that I have ever been able to stumble across which usually results in injury to myself and those around me when I try to do anything requiring this. Its not a surprise that I ended up a cyclist!
But in the name of good sport and being a fun-loving bunch we kitted up and prepared ourself to learn how to high-jump and throw a javelin. We managed to shuffle around the training lap as an excuse for a warm-up and I think the lovely lady attempting to show us the skill of high jumping got a warning of how bad things would be. She showed us some running drills, and not a single one of us was able to co-ordinate these! We all managed to try to both high jump and throw the javelin, not with too much success....although Angela Brodka showed she has a pretty good arm with the throwing....wouldn't want to mess with her! Unfortunately I can't put all my photos of the day on here...just a few....Lucky that tomorrow we can go back to being doubt with some sore muscles from our sorry efforts ;)

Back in the groove

After my brief 'holiday' period I returned to Holland to get back into the swing of it with some Dutch racing which is a good chance to gain some confidence in the bunch and get some strength and power into the legs racing on the flat. The first race back was on Wednesday, the 145.3km Parel van Veluwe - a long race in women's racing terms. The day was sunny and still, no wind to break the peleton up which sometimes makes the racing very dicey in Holland and so I was keen to get into a breakaway, get some good training in and stay out of it would turn out I got much more than I had bargained for! There were attacks going from the start, and I have to admit that even 3km into the race I was initiating things which is a little silly and/or brave depending on how you look at it! I got into a break of 5 girls after 18km, and the km's started to click no point was I feeling fantastic but that constant thought of..."this is good for me, i couldn't hurt myself like this in training" was running through my head. The long and short of it is that the break stayed away....126km out the front, I flew completely and was caught with 1km to go....very tragic indeed! I was completely wrecked after the race...I couldn't move but this has to make you stronger right??
The next day we had a typical Dutch style crit on in Hazerswoude Dorp, only 5km from where we started at 8:15pm but after one of the first real summer days here it was a lovely evening. The entire 1km course was on stones, pave kind of favourite...not! However, I really enjoyed the race, it was team-mates Miesi and Suzanne were in the break from the gun and I 'controlled' the peleton, or so I like to think! Suus won on the night, Miesi was 5th and I won the bunch kick for 6th - sprinter that I am! We rolled home and couldn't believe that it was already 10:30pm....its still light here very hard to turn off and try to get to sleep!
Saturday was another crit on in a place called Wik bij Duurstede, not a super fantastic course but good for some power training with many corners and short straights. I wasn't in flying form but team-mate Miesi was and she came away with the win on the day....there was a front group of 5 and then a few girls in between and then I was 2nd in the bunch sprint....not atrocious but I do need a little more practice with this crit racing! I rode home from the crit, about 80km and it was such a nice time to be on the bike, in the evening as the sun is starting to very slowly going down....I had a few "I'm loving life, the world is such a beautiful place" moments!
I finished the week off with another solid day on Sunday and a good dose of sunshine....I'm the Aussie and I'm starting to complain that it is too hot over here...something is wrong! For some reason, 28 degrees over here feels like about 35, or maybe I have just acclimatised to wintry Europe!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Holiday time for me

I have been very slack again with posting to my blog so I have a lot to cover this time. After Tour de l'Aude I had a week off the bike which was much needed. I headed to Germany to stay with team-mates and the crapy weather gave me a good excuse to stay in bed and be quite slothful! I made it out a few Dresden for the day which was beautiful and on another day to the Wartburg castle in Eisenach which is where Martin Luther translated the bible from Latin to German...I didn't know any of this history which appalled the Germans :) So now I have gotten myself a little more educated and had a good rest in the process. After 6 days off the bike it was time to start again, unfortunately the weather was extremely shitty - lots of sub 10 degree temperatures and constant rain. Not the best weather to renew the motivation but I did get some good quality rides in. I was very excited when the sun came out on Saturday so in typical Aussie fashion stripped down whilst out riding, only to get quite cold once we hit the mountains. On the way home it started raining and I got really cold, and just to top the day off went quite hunger flat as well....ouch, I forgot how bad that feels! So...ended up getting a cold and spent the next two days in bed....very stupid me!
Now I'm back in Holland and have raced for the last two days...I'll write about that when I'm back from my pedal this morning :)