In Varese

Today is my first day at the AIS base in Varese, Italy. I flew in early this morning with Shara Gillow and Carlee Taylor, both of whom have returned from the Tour of Chonming Island in China. We have joined Lauren Kitchen, Amanda Spratt and Kirsty Broun who have been training up a storm here in Varese.
The AIS base is a block of apartments that is home to a variety of bike-related athletes. At the moment, it's housing the Jayco-AIS boys, women's road, and a couple of BMX chicks. The apartments are pretty well set up with a bike room, gym/ergo room and office. There are Italian lessons for the athletes, regular massages and it's opposite what I'm told is the world's best gelati shop. It's a tough life. There are around 3 athletes in each apartment and I'm sharing with Lauren and Carlee.
It is very wet here at the moment - unusual for this time of the year. After we unpacked bikes we rode for 2.5hrs in the rain and got so cold that my fingers couldn't undo my helmet strap buckle or zips when we finished. Not quite the Italian summer I was hoping for but it can only get better.
The day after tomorrow we drive to Belgium for some kermesse racing and then a short 2-day tour in France. (The rain today was probably good prep for Belgium!) I spent some time living in Brussels in 2005/6 when I worked for Linklaters and I'm looking forward to going back... it's a very cool little country. 
At the moment everything feels pretty new and there is a lot to take in but I'm looking forward to getting settled. And a good night's sleep after the 21hr transit wouldn't go astray, either!