After spending a couple days in Craftsbury, Vermont- I jetted over to Milan, Italy to join back on the World Cup circuit for the next couple of months.

Last weekend was a bit of a mixed bag for several reasons. First, we arrived a day and a half before our first race- so I spent my weekend of racing jet legged out of my mind. Fortunately, my first night I slept, but spent the following three nights getting four hours of sleep if I was lucky. The cool thing about this is I learned in situations like this your body just goes into survival mode and you don't even notice you don't sleep, until you have a huge delayed crash (which I had yesterday). The second part of the weekend was that having just gotten healthy the day before flying, I hadn't done any intensity since the last race a month ago in Davos. Instead of looking at this as a disadvantage though, I managed to convince myself it was good, as I would be very rested for the races. The third part of this weekend was that we were in the massive Italian city of Milan, ski racing!!

The view just down the street from our race. City Center.
Ida Sargent and I arrived in the afternoon thursday, so we took the time to take the train down to the city and check out "the city of fashion", keeping us from falling asleep back at the hotel. As we walked out of the station, we were greeted with huge buildings, thousands and thousands of people dressed in fashionable black attire, and endless stores filled with shoes, fur jackets, skinny jeans, and underwear! Following the direction of travel, we found ourselves walking through a castle into a park where they were spreading down snow for our race. I couldn't believe it... we were literally sprinting right in the middle of this incredible city!! It was soo neat. Not to mention it was so warm, people were walking around in shorts and t-shirts. What a new experience.
Machines laying down the courses the day before.
Ida and I standing out among the fashionable people surrounding us.
Warming up on the course with the castle visible in the background.
The following two days started with first the individual sprint, and then a day of team sprinting. The first day, I managed to qualify 31st, just missing the heats by .1 seconds. It was frustrating because it was so close to making heats... like I am convinced that if I would have worn a size larger boot, I would have made it. Regardless, it was my best individual start so far this year, so it was also motivating. The second day was a team sprint, which I teamed up with Ida sargent, while Kikkan and Jessie teamed up as well. Ida and I got to ski some good rounds with the girls, going on to finish 7th in our heat, so not moving on to the finals unfortunately. In the meantime, Kikkan and Jessie were throwing down, qualifying on to the finals, and eventually placing 2nd!!! Another team sprint podium for the US ladies, it was so awesome and exciting!! Also, the canadians girls got to join them on the podium, finishing 3rd. It was a sweet day for the American crew!!! It's always a great feeling to see we can in fact compete with the Europeans.

Sprinting. Fasterskier photo. Good article of the weekend at:
http://fasterskier.com/2012/01/bjornsen-so-close-yet-so-far-in-31st-place-sprint-qualifier-its-kind-of-a-bummer/
North American beauties with their flowers! Congrats to some impressive racing!!
Ida and I getting our cheer on for our teammates
Aside from the excitement of the big city as well as the racing, the crowd was incredible. There were Italians out there dressed in crazy outfits, revving skill saws and blowing horns. Anything they could do to make noise and push on the skiers. It was just so incredible!! The italian men managed to finish third, which made the home crowd just go nuts!! As the Italians skid a victory lap, I watched how much it meant to the crowd to see their home team succeed, it gave me goosebumps. I just love the enthusiasm people bring to our sport over here!

After the last race, we headed for the road eventually ending high up in the mountains of Seiser Alm, Italy. Driving in the dark and jumping in a snow cat to get to our hotel made waking up the next morning the most incredible thing! There was white mountains all around me, the sun was shining and it was gorgeous!! Just so beautiful. After putting on my skis and racing down the hill, the jet leg and lack of sleep finally hit. I became so tired I had to slow to a stop. If it wasn't so beautiful out, and I wasn't doing the best classic skiing I had all year- I believe I would have sat down and started to cry. I had finally hit the wall. As I walked up the hill in exhaustion, I started to think about how lucky I am. I get to ski in the most incredible places during the year of racing! Many people from the US dream about spending time in places like this, as it seriously feels like heaven!

US ladies crew (minus Holly who is healing up her hand at the moment, but back soon)
Great views!!!
Ida and I getting snuggly in our mini European pullout bed.
Aside from getting in some good training, we have found some new sources of entertainment like sledding down the alpine hill, soaking in the sun, and checking out the spa. I am in love with Italy!!

Newell getting his sled on!!
The sledding crew after the speediest, most enjoyable sled ride ever!
Today we will head to Munich for the night and then fly to Estonia tomorrow for this weekends world cup races in Otepaa. The races will be a classic sprint the first day, and then a 10k classic race on sunday. I competed at this venue for U23's last year, so I am looking forward to going to a place I know, it should be fun.

Lets just hope they have snow, and it is a little warmer this time than last :)

Cheers all!!