Getting the opportunity to race in Europe with the US National team was by far the most incredible experience I have ever had, teaching me so much about myself, my family, and the sport I am so passionate about. Since I am known for horrendously long blogs, and also because I could write about my experiences in Europe FOREVER, I've decided to make a list of "firsts" and a list of things I learned...however I can't promise these lists will be short either!;)
- Being asked for an autograph (Kids in Europe love cycling, and since the US won the Giro, they LOVE USA cycling! They would clap and yell USA USA, so fun!)
- Team presentations (In America signing in for a race means walking up to a table sometime before the start and signing your name, in Europe signing in means walking up onto this big grandstand with mobs of camera men in front of you snapping pictures while you stand and smile with your whole team. After you have stood there long enough with a plastered smile (all in the attempt to hide your terror) you walk over and sign your name. All the while the announcer is in the background announcing your names and accomplishments (or so I think, to me it sounds like he is yelling something incredibly exciting...however when you can't understand the language he is yelling in, it tends to cause a small amount of anxiety!;)
- My very first "team presentation!"
Team Chirio Forno D'Asolo :)
- Team Meals: Before races in Europe all the teams go to the same restaurant for lunch...it is a somewhat strange dynamic because everyone is constantly checking each other out...whether or not to smile at your competition or not is a tough choice, smile and you might receive a piercing crusty in return! Teams that race together, eat together!;)
My frist "team meal" :)
- Team Dorms: While I was racing with the US team we stayed in hotels and were given great food. However the custom for many of the teams (and what I experienced while racing with the Italian team Chirio Forno D'Asolo) is to stay in the same dorms and eat the same cafeteria food pre and post race...again it is a strange dynamic, but in Europe teams that race together, sleep together!
The view from my dorm in France
It is amazing how much better some sheets and a pillow can make you feel. I was feeling pretty homesick and struggling the first couple days with Chirio, and since I couldn't speak Italian I missed the "bring your own bedding to France" memo and had been sleeping on a mattress with no blanket or pillow. We went to a French version of Target for lunch the day before the race and I went straight to the bedding section!:) Yes I may have gotten sheets made for a 5 year old girl, but boy did it make me feel better!
- Being called a "Crazy American": this was not a single occurrence, it was a common phrase thrown at me during races, usually after they'd torn me apart in their own language and then realized I was a "dumb American" that only knows one language!;)
- The infamous Pre-Race Lap: This was a strange ritual I experienced at a stage race in France as well as a race in Holland. They line you up on the start line and then do a sort of "practice lap" around a 1K or so loop before returning you to the start line for the proper start. Of course I had no idea this was what was going to happen because I couldn't understand the announcer...confusion doesn't even begin to describe it! These laps usually circled areas with the biggest fan base, and most of the European riders would wave at the spectators...so I waved along! Hey, if you don't know what you're doing, FAKE IT!:)
- Run ins with "Paparazzi": I'm not sure if that is what you call mobs of camera men at sporting events rather than celebrity parties, however I experienced my fair share of random camera in the face! It was a huge shock at my first race in Italy, the GP Cento, because American races don't get nearly that much media coverage! I gotta admit it was pretty fun!
- "Hey Cazzo!!": First off, the word Cazzo in Italian directly translates in English to Dick hah! This was a certain lovable Spaniard's favorite word, which he used to either begin or end most sentences! On one of our training rides a car got really close to us while riding up a climb...said Spaniard yelled "Hey Cazzo!!" the car turned a corner and we thought they were gone, but as we turned the corner we saw the car had pulled over and a large (and by large I mean tall, dark, and extremely fit) Italian man gets out of the car and reaches for a rather large gun on his belt loop! My immediate reaction was "Holy Shit we are gonna die Cazzo!!!" Thankfully it was all about the intimidation factor. We rode by safely, rounded a corner, and busted out laughing!!
- Italian grocery stores: This was actually my first stop when I arrived in Italy. Manel picked Jessica and I up at the airport and we went straight to the grocery store. This was an adventure for me...to say the least. Jessica had been there before so she ripped right into that store like a pro...I walked around like a chicken with my head chopped off. Italian grocery stores are day and night different than in America...no processed food, all fresh local produce, no bread in a bag, all fresh and behind a counter where you have to ask for it (did I mention I speak ZERO italian), no pre packaged meat (it is also behind a counter you have to ask for), milk is not refrigerated (which makes me wonder if it is really even milk), and many other confusing things that make a non Italian speaker feel like a big dumb American ;) However, I've gotta admit that once I got the hang of it, I grew to LOVE Italian grocery stores! I mean who doesn't love fresh produce, bread, prosciutto, cheese, pasta, and chocolate to die for...just took me a minute to figure it all out!
Mmmmm fresh mozzerella, proschuitto, and tomato salad!:)
- Cobblestones...sort of! My first race in Italy was a flat 11 lap circuit with the start/finish being a 1K section of cobblestones. While these were not quite like the nightmarish French or Belgian cobbles I hear of, they were still fairly uncomfortable! The worst part was the section that was made up of big round rocks that had been stuck into cement that led up to the real cobbled section. Man I have some serious respect for the riders that do the Paris-Roubaix!!
The finish or Arrivo!;)
Rocky section that didn't feel too awesome!
The sprint finish! Bronzini won. She will be in a rainbow jersey next time I see her, she is the current road World Champion!
- Team Car Launch: So we have all seen mechanics in the Tour reach out the window, grab the seat of a rider to relieve them of pedaling while they fix the bike, however you don't always see the violent way in which they can launch the rider from the car after said problem is fixed! In my first race (the lovely cobbled one) we were working for Coryn, I was right behind her as she crashed on lap two, so I stopped to help get her back into the peloton. After getting back in, and then having some "bike issues" the team car rode up to me, fixed the issue and then unexpectedly accelerated the car to a good 60 mph. With the mechanic holding my seat post, and rapidly approaching a 90 degree corner, it was safe to say I was screaming bloody murder. Apparently this is a common practice...no one told me, which was evident as my life flashed before my eyes on several occasions of this launching. Franco Chirio (the team director of the Italian team I raced for) attempted this launching maneuver after I flatted in stage one of a race in France. However he thought it'd be a good idea to launch me at 60 mph into an uphill, off camber, skinny corner, where all the other team cars were piled up behind the peloton. I about died and the team got a fine...whoops!!;)
- Lead moto during a TT: In european races each rider during a time trial gets a lead moto! This was by far one of my favorite things about Euro racing. During the Tour de Feminin TT (which was a 17K, super technical course with climbing, tight roads, and tight corners) I had the best lead moto ever! As he would see us approaching riders in front of me he would yell "Alle Alle Alle!!!!!" Alle quickly became one of my favorite words! He was a huge motivation during that TT. Franco Chirio followed me in the team car during the Charente de Maritime stage race and yelled "Tayler Alle Alle Alle, Tayler Alle!!" while honking consistently the entire time I raced! (You can tell he is a big fan of honking during races because his steering wheel is practically caved in!) This motivation technique definitely worked because when I came across the line Franco held up one finger indicating I was in first place! The time trials I did in Europe were incredible!
- Most "graceful" award: So at one of the races I did they called up three girls, announced a bunch of stuff I couldn't understand, and gave them all flowers. I knew these girls weren't in the top 5 so I asked one of them what they had won. She told me it was the most "graceful" award! She laughed pretty hard, as did I, because we both knew that what they mean by most "graceful rider" is really the "hottest" rider hah! The three girls that went up were definitely some of the prettiest in the peloton.
Winners of the "most graceful rider" award! ;)
- Being "star struck" while riding: On our training rides in Lucca we saw some pretty incredible people. One day we saw a whole group of Saxo Bank riders, Manel turned to them after they passed and did Contador's signature victory salute (this was just after the Tour, where Contador beat Saxo Bank rider Andy Schleck...Manel is a Spaniard and has some serious Spanish pride!:) We also had a hilarious run in with Mario Cipollini!! Riding along one day we see this extremely tall, dark, and pretty handsome guy riding and it turns out to be none other than Mario Cipollini! Manel chatted it up with him while we all "sneakily" played paparazzi and took lots of pics! So funny!
Hey there Cipollini!!
Coryn and Cipollini!:)
- The Autogrill! Holy cow I cannot say enough about Italian food, or European food in general, but mostly Italian food. They take so much pride in their food, no matter where you go it is amazing. In America, fast food is a disgusting display of grease and clogged arteries, but in Italy "fast food" is better than the food you get in most restaurants in America. All along the highway are "fast food" stops called Autogrills, where you can get panini's with fresh mozzarella, prechutto, basil, chicken, or anything you want all made to order and delicious!! The buffalino was my all time favorite...fresh pita bread with mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil all thrown together and put on a grill! YUM!! Italy got two things very right #1 mid day siestas (see below) #2 FOOD!!
- Mid day siestas and the overall speed of life: This was a concept that frustrated me at first...coming from the land of the 24 hour department store...but the idea quickly grew on me. In Italy, and many other countries, life is so much slower than in America. They take time to really sit down and enjoy every little aspect of their lives. Meals take hours and are often shared with friends and family (this is something we do here, but not nearly as frequently). On one of my last days in Lucca, all the US girls went out to dinner together with Manel and Rob. After our amazing 4 course meal, all us Americans immediately stood up like we were going to go. Manel looked at us like we were nuts, he told us to sit down and enjoy life a little. In Italy meals are eaten slow and conversations are always savored.
- SRM Dinner: We had the opportunity to have a meal with the owner of the company SRM, and all of the top guys involved, along with a few other professional cyclists. The food was amazing and the conversation was hilarious!
Italy's #1 award wining Gelato...so amazing!!:)
- Gelato stops and nutella crepes: If you know anything about Italy, you know that eating Gelato while you are there is a must! I had someone tell me not to go more than 24 hours while I was in Italy without eating Gelato...and I pretty much stuck to that! My first Gelato stop was during a ride with the US girls, Rob took us to one of his favorite places in Lucca. We made sure to go back there at least once a day after that!;) Then when I got to Asti, Franco Chirio the team director owned a Gelato company...convenient I know! Before I got there Franco had asked Manel if I spoke any Italian, Manels response was: "None, all she knows how to do is say Hello and can I have some Gelato!" So everyday when I would go to Franco's warehouse (that is where we would go for internet) he would bring me Gelato!;) I miss Franco!
My very first Gelato stop!:)
And the trend continued!;)
Riding the towny bikes down to get Gelato!:)
Mmmmm Nutella!! This Nutella was as big as my face! I took this pic at 3 AM on the way home from our race in Holland! This picture is dedicated to my Auntie Sue who lovessss Nutella!:) I would have bought it for you but I'm not sure how I would have packed it! Hehe
- Smiling at Strangers: Okay so this isn't really a first, just something that baffled me for a bit! In America when you are walking down the street you usually try not to make eye contact or stare at people, but if by chance you do make eye contact with a stranger the typical reaction is to smile. In Italy everyone stares at everyone, there really is no shame in staring, however if you make eye contact with someone you don't know and you smile they look at you like you are nuts, or give you a crusty! After smiling (like the all American girl I am) at many an Italian, I finally asked why it was that they don't smile back. Apparently in Italy (and probably other places in europe) they think that Americans are so fake, shooting huge teethy white smiles at all who cross their path. See in Italy they really truly value relationships of all kinds (family, friends, etc) and believe that greetings such as that should be saved for those closest to you. However, even after learning this, I continued to smile at everyone...spread the love right, fake or not I like it when someone smiles at me! :)
- Living in a house with 10 girls who spoke ZERO english: After I raced with the US team, Manel (the US team director) gave me the opportunity to race with an Italy based team called Chirio Forno D'Asolo. I was stoked about the idea of getting to stay and race longer in Europe so I canceled my original flight home and hopped on a train to Asti Italy (the train will be my next bullet;) When I got to Asti I was taken to the house I'd be staying in with some of the other girls on the team. The house had ten girls from Brazil, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Italy...none of which spoke any english. Needless to say I was terrified, and slightly homesick!
- Riding a train: I have ridden trax before but I don't technically consider that a train...and this train riding experience was pretty one of a kind. Rob (the awesome USA mechanic) drove me to the train station where I was supposed to meet some representative from the Chirio Forno D'Asolo team. We arrived and saw a very Italian man (my coach Corey once told me about a game he would play with riders in Italy called "Gay or Italian"...he was spot on with that game!) with a girl who looked like she was lugging around a bike bag similar to mine (only less massive!!). I walked up to them and quickly found that communication was going to be an issue, but through hand signals and such figured out they were the right people. So I boarded the train with these strangers that I couldn't talk to, and I started to freak out a little. Yes I was in Italy, and following my dreams, but I was scared shitless at the current situation and the thought of spending two weeks living and racing with people I couldn't talk to. However, Urta...the girl on the train with me, was so so nice. Even though we couldn't speak the same language, she made me feel a lot better about everything. Long story short (ok this isn't that short) we missed a connecting train, turning a 3 hour trip into a 6 hour trip with two more trains to catch and 3 platforms to climb with a very very large bike case and every bit of luggage I'd brought to Italy (did I mention I am an over-packer?) It was an adventure!
- This was shortly after I met up with my Italian buddies/total strangers! Not going to lie I was scared out of my mind!!
- Learning to order a Cappuccino...and even managing to get that wrong: While I was in Asti, living with a bunch of people I couldn't communicate with, I found myself with a lot of free time...so I started a little bit of a routine. Wake up, go train for a few hours (another bullet to come) and then ride into Asti and hangout at a cafe for a bit. The coffee there is amazing, as I'm sure you've all heard, and that was my favorite part of the day (besides getting to skype with my family...I was a bit homesick!) I made quite a spectacle I'm sure, walking in in my red, white, and blue spandex...I couldn't have been any more American. They all got a kick out of it! I met a lot of Italian men, most of them attempting to talk to me in Italian and quickly fleeing when they realized I spoke ZERO, and then a few that knew a bit of english. Usually I'm not a fan of talking to strangers (I'm a little shy), however it had been weeks since I had heard or spoken english with another person so it was somewhat refreshing!
This cute heart shaped cappuccino came at the perfect time, I was having a kinda rough day (little homesick). Who wouldn't be cheered up by this!:)
My favorite little Cafe cocchi, I rode there everyday while I was in Asti!
- Training alone in Italy: When I was with the US team we all trained together everyday, so I was never too worried about getting lost, or getting a flat and being stranded. When I went to Asti to race with Chirio I planned on riding with the girls on that team. So one day when I saw five of them getting ready to ride, I thought I'd go with them. I walked out with them and quickly realized there was something wrong by the weird looks they were all giving me. We started riding and I could tell they were all talking about something (unfortunately I couldn't understand them. That is the frustrating part about not knowing a language because you know that a lot of times they are talking about you, but you've got no clue what they are saying!) Then all of a sudden out of the blue the five of them took off sprinting all at the same time! Right then I knew it was pretty obvious that they didn't want me to ride with them. From then on I didn't even try, I just rode alone and prayed I didn't get lost or a flat! Surprisingly I never did, and I actually loved riding alone! I got to explore some amazing little towns, no matter where you are in Italy it is so incredibly beautiful!! Love it there!
Just moments before they all sprinted away from me haha oh well!
Thats more like it!:)
I got to see some amazing things while I was riding in Italy! Every little town seems to be set on a hill, and they all have their own bell tower, its incredibly beautiful!
- Meeting a dog named Penguina (Penguin in Italian!) Franco Chirio had three dogs, Rocky, Penguina....and I forgot the 3rd ones name because he was always asleep in Franco's office! Penguina loved me...mostly because I'd sneak him lots of treats!
- Italian driving: From the moment I got off the plane and put my bags in the team car with Manel behind the wheel, I knew my trip was going to be and adventure! Lets just say that Manel has a led foot and very little fear of crashing! Getting in the car with him was like riding a rollercoaster. What I quickly found out is that this wasn't a "Manel thing" this was an Italian thing!! Every Italian I rode in the car with made my head spin...tiny roads + blind corners + ridiculously high speeds = Me scared shitless! But I gotta say, even though they are crazy drivers, they are dang good at it!!
- Skyping! When I made the transition to the Italian team, skype became my safety blanket! Though I admit....after being back home and seeing my frightening phone bill....I should have used it way more often than I actually did!;)
- The never ending road trip: While I was there I did a total of 6 road trips to races that were 12+ hours long! Wheww that was a lot of time in the car...with Italian drivers!;) My trip as a whole (planes, trains, and automobiles combined) went a little like this: Utah to New York, New York to Pisa, Pisa to Lucca, Lucca to Limosin (France), Limosine to Lucca, Lucca to Asti, Asti to Central France, Central France to Asti, Asti to Holland, Holland to Asti, Asti to Milano, Milano to New York, New York to Utah! Good times!:)
- Celebrating my Birthday in Italy: So it is kind of a joke in my family that I am NEVER home on my birthday! For the past 7 or so years I've been at soccer tournaments, races, Africa, and now Italy!:) Can't complain about that! However, it was a little funny to turn 21 in a country where being 21 doesn't really have any special significance!;) I did have my first alcohol purchase there though when I bought the Italian team director Franco Chirio a bottle of wine to say thank you!:)
My little dog/cute boyfriend sent me this message on my birthday! I love them!:)
- Wearing a very very tiny helmet: When Franco was giving me all the team loot for Chirio Forno D'Asolo, I had a little giggle when he handed me the helmet! The only way I can describe the helmets that team uses is to say they look exactly like those old school ones first worn in the Tour de France, only made out of modern helmet material. It barely fit on my head and I was just prayin I didn't crash!
- Italian cycling news articles: One day while I was on the internet at Franco's warehouse, he came to show me something. He pulled up an article from cycling news (Italy style) that had pictures of me and a whole page full of words that I, of course, could not read! I was totally confused, #1 because I had no clue where they had gotten those pictures of me and #2 because I had no clue what it said!;) I love Franco, but he can't speak of word of english and I can't speak a word of Italian, so our interactions were nothing short of hilariously confusing!! He managed to get me the link to the article so I sent it to Matt (who speaks Italian, and had actually already found it on about 4 or 5 other Italian cycling news sites) and gave me the gist of what it said. Here is a link, if you happen to speak any Italian haha: http://teleciclismo.com/articolo_dettaglio.php?id_art=705
- Italian's and car tires: On our way to Holland our team van got a flat tire. This whole 2 hour period of time was absolutely hilarious!! We pulled over right as we got the flat, Franco was driving the team car and pulled over to help us. The three men (Franco, Francesco, and Edita's boyfriend...can't remember his name!) got to work... and the three scenes of hilarity began. Scene 1 I like to call "The Search." They unpacked the entire car, pulled up floor mats, unscrewed side panels, and after all that could not actually find the spare tire! They then came up with the brilliant idea of blowing up the flat tire...with a bicycle floor pump (yes a bike pump) and then driving on it to see what would happen. That spurred scene 2 which can only be called "The obviously inevitable BLOWOUT!" After the tire was pumped up by a floor pump, I finally regained composure after laughing my ass off and we hopped back in the car. I figured Francesco would drive slow on the make shift flat tire, but oh no he got right back up to full speed and in a matter of seconds there was a large pop, a car full of screaming girls, and a near collision with the side rail of the freeway. Wowwwww really, did you really think that the tire would just be magically ok? Let me remind you that none of the people I am with speak english, so I can't really over hear their brilliant plans and I was a little bit weary of getting in the car after seeing the tire being pumped up by a BIKE pump!! After the huge blowout and near death experience we were stuck on the side of the road yet again. Imagine my shock when, after lots of jibber jabber in Italian and Russian, everyone packs back into the car...that now has three tires and a rim! Francesco turns the key and starts driving!! And not nearly slow enough! I had a very intense mix of fear and laughter...oh and confusion! We finally get to an exit and find another place to pull over and something miraculous happened!! There was another flat tire victim on the side of the road, however this guy had a spare tire, and all the tools needed to fix it...and even better, he spoke ENGLISH!!:) He helped my fabulous Italian and Russian buddies #1 find the tire, #2 lend the tools to fix said tire, and #3 actually fix the tire! The poor guy ended up finding and fixing our flat all by himself and I quickly learned that Italian men (or at least the ones I was with) have a frighteningly minimal amount of handy man skills!;)
Hahahahahaha by far one of the funniest experiences of my life!!
- Italian men: As shortly described above, my coach had told me about a game he used to play with the US girls while in Europe called "Gay or Italian" hahaha this turned out to be a frighteningly hard guessing game! Italian men are, for lack of a better work, HOTT! However, they are often so fashionable, and the fashion in Italy is obviously much different than America, that figuring out which which is which is somewhat difficult! Italian men wear capris, scarfs, dressy shirts, beautiful shoes, etc....I think any America women would have a hard time separating the two!;) This male way of life often has its unfortunate consequences...for example when our Chirio "mechanic" Francesco decided to wear a very very small shirt...yikes!!
- Pasta for breakfast? Huh: At our race in Holland we stayed in a cute little hotel that served some pretty incredible food. The night before our race we were leaving dinner and Franco was telling everyone the plan for the next morning. I kept hearing the word for breakfast and also pasta. Kelly Benjamin was there with me by then so I had one english speaker and we were trying to interpret Franco's explanation. We finally got him to say "Breakfast...15 minutes...pasta" Again I was so confused and then we finally realized what he was saying. I guess it is an Italian thing, or maybe just a Chirio thing to eat breakfast (your basic cereal, fruit, yogurt, etc) and then fifteen minutes later you eat pasta! haha Kelly and I laughed so hard once we figured it out and sure enough the next morning we ate breakfast, sat for exactly 15 minutes and then were served giant bowls of pasta! Gotta love Europe!
- The small mechanic: This was one of my all time favorite experiences. When Kelly Benjamin arrived in Asti, her bikes didn't make it there with her so she was forced to use a Chirio bike for our race in Holland. Kelly doesn't speak a word of Italian either so trying to get the bike fit to her was a challenge. Franco told us that he was going to send us to the "Piccolo mechanic." Yes this man actually goes by the name, "The small Mechanic!" This was pretty funny, but got so much better once we actually met the "small mechanic!" His real name was Rabino and he was in fact a very very small mechanic! If ever I imagined a person as a cartoon character this little guy was it, he was awesome!!
The picollo mechanic!! Don't you just love him!!
- The incredibly emotional airport fiasco: I loved my time in Europe, but after being with non english speakers for a few weeks I was REALLY missing my family. Once August 10th arrived, the day of my flight home, I was ecstatic! One of Franco's workers came to pick me up at 6:00 AM and we were off to the Milano airport (which was about a 1.5 hour drive from Asti). We arrived at my terminal and the adventure began! I got a little cart for my massive amounts of luggage and set out to find the delta counter. I walked in and found out that I was at counter one, and needed to be at counter 12, so on I went. After almost taking down 3 or 4 sets of those annoying velvet ropes that function as barriers between counters I quickly learned that, like European roads, walking isles in airports are SKINNY! My bike bag, with both my bikes, along with my huge suitcase and carry on made for a very oversized load! By the time I got to counter 12 I was sweaty and frustrated...and really sick of being starred at! They checked me in, took my wide load (aww relief...for now) and I went to find my gate. I got to my gate, only to find out that my flight had been delayed by an hour. I looked at the ticket for my connecting flight, did the time change math and realized that I was going to be seriously cutting it close! We boarded the flight, sat on the runway forever waiting to taxi out...and then the kicker! The pilot got on the intercom and explained to us that since we'd been delayed they had to change our flight plan, which was gonna add another 30-45 minutes onto the already 1 hour delay! My stomach sank...I wanted to get home to see my family so bad that the thought of not catching my connecting flight made me want to cry...ok I might have shed a tear or two. This was the long flight of the two and sitting there for 9 hours watching the clock, hoping that by some miracle we had a speedy tailwind to get me there 2 hours early...makes for a really long and anxious flight!! Finally the plane landed and I had exactly 30 minutes to get off, go through customs, re-check my bags, go through security again, and get to my gate. I ran from place to place, got through customs pretty quick but once I hit the baggage claim I knew I wouldn't make it. I walked up to someone working there and asked what would happen if I didn't have time to get my bags and re-check them (all the while I was teary eyed...yeah I know I'm a wuss but I just really wanted to get home). They said that would be ok, my bags just wouldn't get to Utah for a few days. By that point I didn't give a crap about my bags and ran on through to security without them. Now with only 15 minutes till my flight would leave. I got there and of course there was a HUGE line! I heard a few guys behind me walk up and tell the guy at the front that there flight was leaving in 15 minutes, the guy let them cut the line so I followed them up there and cut too. After some serious tongue lashings from security and the people I butted in line, I managed to get behind a family that was going through. They were the family from HELL!! Took them forever to get all there kids and grandparents through and I was shaking with anxiety! I got through, took of my shoes (flip flops) and booked it to my gate. Of course I needed to be at gate 21 and started at gate 1....I made it right as they were closing the doors, I felt like I was in a scene of Home Alone as I threw my boarding pass at the girl and ran through the bridge to the plane. I have never felt as relieved as I did when I hit that seat, all sweaty and smiling! I said, "damn that was a close one" to the guy sitting next to me...he looked at me like I was a crazy person but I didn't care, I was going home!:)
- On the way to the airport!
GP Cento Carnevale d'Europa
The Tour de Feminin en Limousin, France (this was by far the most incredible race I've ever done!):
The volunteers all wore these cute orange shirts, white pants and yellow hats!
Coryn sprinting for 3rd in one of the stages!
Did I mention the insane amount of crashes!!
Still working on my positioning!
Not gonna lie, race starts were crazy scary, but so amazing!!
I have a slight obsession with Pinarellos!
Coryn in the young riders jersey after stage 1!:)
Stage 1 finish!
Manel coachin us before Stage 1!
Charente d'Maritime (France)
At the start of stage 2 :)
Waiting for the awards presentation...I was a little tired!;)
The Valkenburg Classic (Holland):
The cool town we rode through right before the Caulburg (huge climb!:)
I know this is random but I thought it was hilarious, this was the toilet in our hotel in Holland!
Kelly and I pre-riding the course
Emma Pooley, World Time Trial Champion!
Beautiful things I saw while riding:
Our loved our training rides with the US team!
The little towns throughout Italy are amazing!
The is the hill leading to Montecciero, the little suburb of Asti I lived in with team Chirio!
Riding around the wall in Lucca!
Other fun stuff!:)
Super awesome guy in a Carrfour!
Playing flip cup...with water!
Team Cameo (truck)!
Mountains we saw on our way to Tour de Fem, many of them were climbs done in the Tour de France!
Last but not least, our amazing soigneur Nadia!!
The greatest thing that I learned while I was in Europe is the importance of family and the incredible strength there is within that. Life drastically changed while I was away and I found myself heart broken for Luke, his girls, Matt and the entire Bradley family. Matt's incredible sister in law Bunny Watson Bradley was hit and killed on her bike the morning I flew to Italy. Matt called me the morning after, barely able to voice the tragic news. My heart stopped, and I so badly wanted to be at home with Matt and his family. It made me realize how fragile life is and how important it is to tell those you love, that you love them on a daily basis. The Bradley family is such a unique group of people, and the most amazing family I have ever known. Matt has two incredible parents, five brothers, one sister, and loads of cute little nieces and nephews...not to mention the huge number of cousins, aunts and other members of his extended family. Although his family is big, they are all so closely knit and very heavily involved in each others life. I don't know how else really to describe it besides saying that it is incredibly beautiful and touching to be around all of them. His family rallied together through this tragedy in a way that I can't even explain, and truly celebrated the incredible person that Bunny was. Bunny herself was an absolutely amazing person, she inspired so many people with the way she lived her life, and has become someone I will always look up to.
Not long after Bunny passed Matt had some tragic news of his own. While we were skyping one day he told me that Dr. Jones (the Doctor who had removed a "benign"bone tumor from his toe a few weeks before I left for Italy) had informed him that the tumor in his toe, and another one they found lower in the foot, might in fact be cancer. The day after I returned from Italy we went to meet with Dr. Jones to discuss the options and regrettably came to the heartbreaking conclusion that Matt would have to have a below knee amputation later that week. To read the full story of Matt's cancer from beginning to end, click here). Matt never once wallowed in this news, or felt the slightest bit sorry for himself. He stayed positive from the moment he found out, till he was wheeled out of surgery (with a disfunction epidural and all), through the many weeks on crutches, and even now as he deals with his temporary prosthetic and the discomfort of learning to use his new leg. When talking about himself and his loss he says he is grateful for his life, when talking about his brother, nieces, and families loss of beautiful Bunny he can't help but get very emotional. Matt, Luke, and the Bradley family are nothing short of inspirational. They have taught me what it means to be strong, what it means to be a family, and how to appreciate every single day of life and to truly love the people I share it with.
Love and miss you Bunny