Sunday, 29 June 2008


Forgive me for such a delayed blog. I have many excuses, of which none are truly legitimate, except the one that goes something like … “My apologies. I’ve been busy enjoying the sunshine, the lake and the lifestyle too much to really find the time to tell you all about it” … The reason you’re receiving an update at this time is due to the intense storm that has recently hit. In the last hour two of the upstairs bedrooms have been flooded, along with our bathroom, the basement, and even the office to a degree. Prior to this incident, my days have consisted of sunshine, many hours on the bike and the resulting severe tan lines. When Vicki and I (pictured) get sick of our lycra, we cook, we clean (which lead to my first experience with a toilet brush), we sunbake and then we watch romantic chick flicks!

The dynamics of the house have changed once again. All of the boys have returned from holidays and departed for an altitude training camp in Stelvio. Replacing them for three weeks prior to the Junior World Championships in South Africa are the Junior World boys themselves; Michael Matthews, Alastair Loutit, Michael Hepburn and Michael Freiberg. The MTB’ers have returned from the World Championships with an array of results and an Olympian among them. Dan McConnell has qualified the ONLY position in the Men’s MTB Olympic Event!!! (Pictured below with Lachlan Norris). Our proposed women’s team has slightly dwindled. Amanda Spratt will not be returning this year as she is getting a chronic injury sorted that will see her fit and strong for next year! While Josie Loane is currently spending some time back home in Australia. Joining us instead will be proposed development team members Carlee Taylor and Josie Tomic.

When we get really bored, we head to Lake Maggiore, but our last trek didn’t go quite as planned. After five hours had been spent in transit to and from location, we were left with merely two hours to enjoy ourselves. The water was cool, calm and refreshing!…but after a solid 5 minutes of swimming some were struggling to keep their head above water, so it was time to hit up the wall. It was a long jump from the common ridge, and an even longer jump from the roof of a building we found. So in true Aussie style, we showed up the Italians, having the boys make the epic plunge to the waters below. When we haven’t got time for the lake, we have to opt for the backyard. Call me a ‘patch of snow’ or ‘top-deck’, but I guarantee I will sunbake in this country (pictured with Johnny Walker) until I get a god damn tan!

So the countdown to the Giro D’Italia begins…7 days remaining. Some epic exploring has been taking place in preparation, and I have been able to venture over some of the passes we conquer in the Giro itself. Most of them I did on no breakfast after sleeping in past 9am! Vicki, Tiff and I have been joined by fellow Australians Oenone Wood, Lorian Graham and Rochelle Gilmore out training, and the form is slowly coming along (hopefully not too slowly)! It’s getting harder for me to take my mind off racing, or more so, the lack of it. I haven’t paddled to Switzerland, I’m not fluent in Italian, and I haven’t studied a single letter of my course notes for the year…on the other hand, I have studied every stage of the biggest tour on the women’s road calendar. So, if you don’t hear from me, cross your fingers and wish me luck!

Sunday, 15 June 2008


My time in Italy is going swell…for those of you that wanted to know! I have recovered from any trace of jet lag, and have full movement of my shoulder joint after my run in with an Italian driver. Despite the implications, I am not here for a holiday, I’m actually here to ride my bike, well more than that…race my bike. For the next two weeks I’ll be training the house down in preparation for my first tour in Italy, the Giro D’Italia. It’s considered a very prestigious nine day tour on the women’s racing calendar so the nerves are beginning to build! Training with Oenone Wood over the Brinzio climb (a hill visited by the tour in 2007) and ‘Chocolate Spoon’ visits (pictured Oenone and Tiff) will surely get me through.

To pass the time, the three of us have devised multiple plans for our somewhat uneventful afternoons. Firstly, Oenone proposed we buy an inflatable boat and enjoy the sunshine. Then I suggested we row to the base of a mountain and hike up the ridge. But Tiffany has bigger plans for us, and somehow the story developed into an epic journey of rowing to Switzerland! If I was to float back to Australia, the news would be that my sister once had the phone I now have (story to come), my brother broke his nose sparring at karate, and Sasha, our Labrador, is growing quickly. I’d discover that it was snowing close to home while I’ve been coating on the sunscreen, and that my Dad broke the 4 hour barrier for his second marathon!!…I’d like to think the new shoes I bought him made the difference :)

So now to address the topic of a phone…remembering that Matt’s was stolen. Well, it just so happens that the new generation iPhone is being released soon in America, at half the price they charge in Australia. It’s also coincidental that Tiff will be returning to the US of A for a few races with her ‘Colavita’ team in late July. So on discovery of this news, there was no hesitation in asking her to purchase one for him…make that two…one for me :) The problem? We both need a phone to get us through to then, which leads me to our new Motorola’s (pictured above). Initially, I couldn’t text Matt, he couldn’t call me, and I couldn’t put credit on my phone. We worked the situation out, but he is more inclined to use the phone as a Frisbee over contact purposes. You couldn’t possibly comprehend how ridiculous this phone is…

Friday, 13 June 2008


It may seem monotonous, but today I’ll be talking about food. It’s not that I’m fixated on it, actually I pretty much am, but the truth of the matter is that the lifestyle here in Italy accommodates for two things…coffee, and food. The former I’m not an enthusiast about, so I have a choice of brioche (croissant), cioccolata calda (hot choco.), panini (salad roll), pizza, gelati…and the list goes on. Note: It’s a fact that I’ve lost weight since I’ve been here, but don’t try this diet at home folks. So here goes. When I last wrote, I had just finished exploring this beautiful country on my bike, then returned home to smash a whole pack of chocolate wafers, completed a windtrainer session, and then ventured across the road for some gelati…notice the equality of riding and treats?

The MTB’ers left for Val di Sole yesterday (pictured with Lachy holding a toilet brush?? Dan and Paul), a week out from their respective X-Country World Championships. I went for a spin with them in the morning, devastated after bypassing the ‘Chocolate Spoon’, but as a substitute we decided to inhale a box of sweet biscuits coated in a bonus size jar of nutella while packing the van. We all cook our own meals over here, so in memory of their ‘claggy’ risotto from yesterday, I attempted my first risotto for dinner. After adding 1.5 cups of water, of which they had recommended four, I quit on the stirring due to starvation and ate it anyway. Surprisingly, I went back for a second serving!

By this time, Carla’s flight from Australia had been delayed and re-directed, and as the third addition to my room, she had finally arrived. It was merely an overnight visit, and she had left the country before I even woke this morning. As predicted, she has signed with one of the leading women’s professional cycling teams in ‘Cervélo-Lifeforce’ and was flying out to start her first tour racing in their colours. While she was on a plane, I was devouring Italian coco-pops, out of an Italian bowl, while watching the Italian version of Power Rangers. As a substitute, we were graced with the presence of Matt King, who had endured a 10 hour train ride from Germany after withdrawal from Thüringen-Rundfahrt, and in the meantime, had his phone stolen, but that’s a whole other story.

Today started with a chocolate brioche and two cioccolata calda’s…which are like bowls of soup here, so thick that your spoon literally stands straight! Tiff, Matt and I then indulged in chocolate nutella crepes for lunch, made with chocolate milk and smeared with extra nutella…full of nutrition! Then it was time for my first journey into Varese, where we waited on the platform in the rain because Matt got the time table wrong. We feasted on a special kind of pizza called ‘Balun’, as in ‘balloon’, hence the appearance of the pizza (pictured above). It’s mostly filled with air, not contents, but in saying that I couldn’t even finish it…very unusual. Another gelati indulgence took place before an epic wait at the station, a walk home in the rain, and decisions as to whether Tiff and I should join Matt in Venice for three days… hmmm… choices...

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


Once again there has been a significant shuffle of residents in the house. After a late night on Sunday I was up at 5am with the U21 boys, as they were departing for racing in Germany and, in typical male fashion, had no supplies for breakfast. The place seemed deserted with them gone, but the MTB’ers made sure there was no shortage of severe road bike mono-ing (pictured below is Paul), a few ‘superman’ displays, and of course the continuous joke pointed at Will’s leg warmers while riding in 30 degree heat! I was appreciative of Will’s choice in clothing as it helped to turn the conversation away from my brutally grit ridden chain, proof of the poor weather we’ve been enduring in this so called ‘summer’ season.

Jammo left on Tuesday, Tiff Cromwell and Vicki Whitelaw arrived, and the U23 boys departed after a final stop at the ‘Chocolate Spoon’, which is quickly becoming the flavour of the month for me. To think I'd never had a mocha that was sided with a chocolate spoon! I’ve been forced to explore Italy solo, and in an attempt to find climbs stumbled across a monument of Pietro’s (pictured below), even once opting for the short cut home. Of course, I had never taken the short cut, I had simple heard of it, so when I ended up in Varese I felt blessed…as ‘lost and stranded’ isn’t uncommon here. Vicki’s first day back saw her snap her chain and spend 3 hours roadside before being retrieved, so you can understand why I was worried!

Not a lot goes on that doesn’t involve a bike or lycra, so I merely pray that I wake to a blinding sun that greets us before the nightly rain, thunder, and sometimes hail. Along the lake, of which I have named ‘beach road’, I find that an occasional rider will sit behind me for kilometres on end. I thought this was annoying, until one sidled up along side me and started a conversation, which turns out to be much more annoying. Yes…I have attended four Italian classes, but I’m not going to count to ten and ask him for a gelati (the only two things I know how to do!). Besides that, Italy is quite normal. They all laugh at my masculine name, walk down the centre of main roads, ignore any white lines indicating a crossing, and turn their car engine off at train tracks for the 10 minute wait. Just like home :)

Sunday, 8 June 2008


Today would have been a lonely day with the females yet to arrive, and all 16 boys away for racing, if it hadn’t been for Mark Jamieson aka. Jammo. After a brutal track camp in Belgium, he has ventured to Italy for merely two days and I would like to think it was simply to keep me company. The combination probably wasn’t the best when it came to navigation, but somehow we made it to Cittiglio, over the 10km ‘Basso’ climb, and into Ponte Tresa, having to revert to the map on three separate occasions. It had been a beautiful day, but somewhere between two panini’s, four pizza squares, three juices and a cappuccino, it had started to rain. Initially, it was wet, and eventually it was torrential, to the point where we were roadside, sheltered in a stranger’s driveway, doubting our chances of making it home!

The first thing that ran through my mind was the thought of having to clean my bike…again. But then I was simply grateful that I didn’t have a ‘head-crack’ ergo session as replacement. When the rain eased, we rolled down to the ‘Chocolate Spoon’ (pictured above) in Varese and smashed another four mocha’s with complimentary chocolates, flooding the floor with puddles of water before the trek home. The U21’s arrived not long after, in high spirits as Leigh had won their one day race in Italy. Pietro, an Italian sculptor who lives down the road, invited us around for dinner to celebrate. After a gorgeous meal, a few litres of gelati, and too much wine for some, we were given a representation key ring and brooch for the coming Road World Championships in Italy, of which Pietro had created.

After completing the washing up, not only did Pietro want to adopt me, but he gave me a specially framed painting in recognition of my help =) On the way home the boys spent their time harassing a neighbourhood dog, and in return were harassed by the moderately larger owner who pretty much chased us down the street! Note to readers: Hayden was running before the owner even made it out his front door! The MTB’ers were home when we returned, and then it was simply a waiting game for the U23’s, as it was time to cut the cake for Travis’ 19th birthday, a double celebration as Simon has also won his one day race in Italy. The nutella cake went down a treat, but perhaps the highlight of my day was a present from Matt, who had raced under my lucky number ‘54’ (pictured) and passed it down to me, hopefully with luck and good fortune in tow =)

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Castronno is a township in the province of Varese in Italy. It's about 40kms northwest of Milan, 10kms southwest of Varese and although only 4sq/kms it actually populates over 5000 people (with about 30 of them living in the AIS housing estate). The community consists of the almost compulsory pizzeria and gelataria, and is ridden with crazy Italian drivers and ‘to die for’ café’s. On arrival at the house (pictured below), Elsa (CA administrator, house manager, supervisor, cleaner, chef, mother, friend) was the only female to be seen, along with support staff and 16 male cyclists! There are thirteen cyclists; Zak, Johnnie, Simon, Wez, Trav, Cam, Matt, Hayden, Will, Leigh, Adam, Jack and Glenn, and three mountain bikers; Paul, Lachy and Dan. Most of the AIS girls are currently racing the Tour of Montreal, and the remainder are on holidays, but we shall all meet up within the coming three weeks.

When the girls arrive I will be rooming with Carla Ryan (22yrs, QLD) and Vicki Whitelaw (31yrs, ACT). Although I dare say that I may be rooming by myself soon, as both have recently had significant success and may be headed to professional teams before the year is up! Our room consists of a combined kitchen and lounge area, a bathroom, and a bedroom with two singels and a bunk…somehow I scored a single. I noticed two things on arrival. The first, that the fridge was empty, and the second, that the freezer was empty, which subsequently led to my worst supermarket experience ever! We headed down to ’Eurospin’, which was about as dodgy as it sounds. Everything was in bulk and the variety was poor, kind of like an Italian ‘Aldi’. My first meal was a disaster, my choice of meat less than impressive, and somehow I managed to drop a boiling carrot on my chest, resulting in a pretty little burn…(shakes head)

I had been awake for four hours when the bunch rolled out this morning, which I was forced to join for fear of getting lost. It was raining…as you would expect during the Italian summer right??…and I locked it up on the very first corner of the day. From then, I rode cautiously, but not cautiously enough obviously, because I ran up the arse of a car on the way back through Varese, resulting in a large bruise on my right arm to match the burn on my chest! Some of the boys randomly turned for time trial and hill efforts, instead, I found myself at a small café after 30 minutes with Will and Hayden called the ‘Chocolate Spoon’. So logically, a mocha (coffee flavoured hot chocolate) is accompanied by a spoon made of chocolate…quite sophisticated, and tasty! So let’s just say that the café’s are the ultimate, the scenery picturesque, the driver’s crazy, and the gelati amazing! The language barrier is certainly there to say the least, but that can only improve with time...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


With six kilograms of toiletries and seven pairs of shoes, my bags were packed. My bike however took a little longer. It took half an hour and three people to remove my pedals (did I really do them up that tight?!) and then I managed to break a gear cable before packing it into the bike box! The dilemma’s were sorted on the morning of, before a 3 hour car trip that signalled the beginning of my travels. Goodbyes were kept short at the airport to prevent a downpour of tears, and then I was by myself, as I would be for the next 30 hours (pictured). My head wasn’t quite screwed on when, after checking in my bags, I headed down the escalator to the domestic terminals! I didn’t manage any sleep on the 9 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, but I did meet a girl named Diane on her way to Dubai, and we spent the time watching movies and crying through all four! Sad I know…

Coincidentally, I met Brett Lancaster’s Mother in Law on the plane and she joined me for a $7 iced chocolate (that tasted like Milo, milk and ice) when we stopped over in KL. On my flight through to Rome, I met a guy called Dave who suffers from Epilepsy, and for take off, landing and through any sort of turbulence, he was having small fits and kicking the shit out of my chair!! Not surprisingly, I forgave him. The journey continued and on arriving in Rome, I had three hours before venturing through to Milan. It turns out that I needed 2.5 of those to simply get to my gate! It went a little something like this. A bus ride to the terminal, a long wait in passport control, no euro coins for a trolley, 10 solid minutes of dragging my bike box to three different terminals in the rain (a mandatory rest period is pictured), a lift that stopped only at the floors above and below my destination, waiting in three lines to find the right one, paying $50 euro for the transport of my bike over the hour flight.

Once my luggage was finally checked in my afternoon proceeded like this. I was bombarded by a group of Chinese tourists through security, paid for a muffin in one line and had to shove my receipt in the face of staff to actually get it, walked a mile to gate B3 as my ticket indicated, only to be directed to B15 to encounter the rudest and most ignorant staff member ever, who served three people behind me and answered four phone calls while I waited patiently. Then eventually, I caught the bus out of gate B11. So I think it’s official, I hate Rome airport! I was tired and hungry, and my half hour sleep and light refreshments didn’t do much to relieve the sorrow. So somehow, I managed to survive my first solo international flying experience, and arrive, for the first time, in Italy! I am now part of the Castronno community, and after just 4 hours in this tiny town, I have already taste tested the gelati!

Sunday, 1 June 2008


When one is planning for overseas departure, intending to ride her bike for 15 weeks in some of the biggest female cycle tours in the world…generally she doesn’t take ten days off the bike! Being sick was a novelty at first, but I didn’t appreciate being plagued past the 48hr mark, and after two weeks I had developed a true hatred toward this sickness. Being confined indoors isn’t such a bad thing when it’s 0 degrees outside, but when entertainment comes in the form of study, you know your grasping at straws. It was a good time for me to bury my head in the books as not much of that has been happening lately, but karma struck and I received a call from the head of my course at Swinburne. Instead of being sent a course outline for my Certificate IV in Fitness, I had been sent one for the Certificate III in Sport. In short, I had been studying the wrong course!! Although similar context, the outcomes are entirely different and I must start from the beginning.

For a while, I was in no mood to study, until I woke to -2 degrees and decided that anything beat going out in that weather! My first day back proved a tough one, with serious head spins sending me home after 15 kms, while my second day back saw the bunch I was riding with hit by car! Eventually my bad luck ran out, and after a presentation at the local Bowls Club I even won two grocery packs. Just to make sure luck really was on my side, I went for a mountain bike ride (pictured-note to self, white and mud don‘t mix). I’ve only ever done this twice in my life, so to say I came close to serious injury is definitely not an understatement. So now, it is with great confidence that I depart for Europe, after having Kurt and Annie Jensen educate me on how to order pancakes in every possible language! I’ll be back in 15 weeks, and no doubt my Italian will be no further developed than it is now, but until then, enjoy winter without me…ciao!