Do you remember summertime as a child? In the outskirts of Detroit there was a small corn field across the road from our house. No school meant most days were spent outside in the muggy heat. My imitation bmx blue light special was the escape route.

The nearby neighborhood subdivision roads were my playground. Endless days in the bright sun. Sometimes cruising, other times riding mean tempo just for fun. Summertime was bittersweet because at some point, no matter how hard I tried, one thing was certain. I would be grounded for the rest of it.

Early on the 16th of April I loaded up the car with my best commuter electric scooter and headed south and east for Walla Walla WA. My first block of races for 2010 lay ahead and I was excited to see my teammates again. It felt like the first day of being ungrounded.

Stage 1 started slow and after a few miles near the front I am tense and nervous. Cobwebs still lingering from last years nightmare. When the speeds dip below 25 mph the pack bunches and then its elbows and brake checks. I quickly found myself at the back where sanity rested. Some time later after the speed picked up a loud commotion ahead and riders braked and dove.

The group veered right as a small group came to a stop on the left. None of our guys saw who’d stopped. Chris “Stu” Stuart, our best shot at the stage had been left behind to suffer a slow wheel change and a mostly solo ride into the finish some 40 miles later thanks to the current ban of radio use by riders and to the fact that we had no follow car. The stage finished in a field sprint.

We set off to the host house and cleaned up. I accidentally shaved my whole face. Brandon Lynch showed at the race with a week old beard. His birthday was approaching and he was growing a mustache for the occasion. We called the bunk bed room with the tv and dvd player so that I could introduce the Lynchmeister to Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of my favorite shows.

Not long after most of the team was huddled in our room laughing heartily. The next day we prepped for the TT and the stache growing party was in full effect. After the warm up I rolled by the start gate and saw that I had a few extra minutes so I took one last hot lap around the parking lot and rolled back. As I approached the gate again I could see the timing was near perfect. “There he is, there he is” one official said loudly as I darted through the tent. The line official held his hand out and told me to “stop first”.

A short track stand before the clock ticked off the last two seconds, beeped, and then “Go!” Not a typical on time start to a time trial but on time nonetheless. The ride was awesome fun and fast. The very reason for living like a monk under a rock. Our guys rode well. Stu put in a very impressive time even after chasing the last half of stage 1 and Kai Applequist did a blistering ride despite being sick. My time ended up 4th only five seconds off of the winning time from last year.

We loaded up and back to the host house for a short recovery and prep for the criterium. The stage began under dark skies and a light rain. This course is full of danger in the light of day. We have had the pleasure of riding it in the dark for the last two years. ?. Add a little rain and I am right back where I started this weekend- tense, nervous and drifting toward the back. The battle up front led to many unplanned dismounts if you know what I mean.

A couple of times in the last half of the race the pace picked up and gaps opened in front of me. The nerves were taking their toll and my legs felt heavy. Lucky for me Lynch was just up ahead and I let him know that I was in difficulty. He eyed the gap in front of us and drove his legs into the spindles with a huge effort to close it. That stud had a mustache. Stu got 4th on the day in a mass sprint. That stud also had a mustache.

The last stage began under warm and sunny skies. The first race of my season had me feeling rough around the edges and sitting 4th in the general classification. Our guys made big efforts at the front but no break would stick and the leading team controlled the front. On the last lap the 2nd and 3rd place riders slipped the field as the leader was losing control. Kai went to the front to try and help bring the danger men back.

The break away proved too strong and the ensuing gc shuffle left us in 5th place. Hard to believe but we had a real shot at the win and our Director Sportiff Tad Hamilton made that point very clear to all of us. With a few more weeks of racing in my legs it would have been different for sure. On the bright side, 5th at Walla Walla is pretty darn good for just getting ’10 started. Wounds were licked regardless.

We packed up, said goodbye to Austin who was headed home for some races in Oregon and headed to Boise before a two day drive to La Vuelta de Bisbee in AZ. Tad manned the wheel the whole way, that stud had an Abe Lincoln beard. The exact opposite of a mustache. We met up with Scott Cross, Chris Hong and Jonathan “Rudy” Awerbuch in Scottsdale along the way. The stage 1 downtown prologue had us all gasping for air in the high desert. At nearly 6000 feet Bisbee ain’t no Bellingham WA. Strong international talent and/or high elevation riders stacked the top placings on the day.

Early the next morning we lined up for the Stage 1 road race. All of us made attempts to get in the break. Eventually a move went and Stu was in it but came out later due to his earlier efforts. With the leaders jersey on the back of a big name pro from United Healthcare we sat back with everyone else as his team bore the responsibility of the chase. Again with no radios chaos ensued and the leading team could not seem to make up their minds to chase or let the break go.

They had a guy in the break but weren’t sure of his chances. After watching the gap widen we decided to chase as the leader and his team sat up. Our guys pulled back almost four minutes of the breakaways lead but it was too late. The Lead changed to Fly V Australia. A few short hours later was the Time trial.

There were light winds in the warm up area and I headed to the start gate with a deep aero front wheel. A much stronger wind greeted me as the course dropped towards the turn around. As I was pushed around at high speeds I felt like crawling back under my rock. The turn around and upturn in grade were a relief. Hong placed 20th and I managed 11th.

Another early morning start for the last stage. We were determined to get a guy in the break. We all made attempts and Hong made his way into the days move. Several strong riders in the group helped make it stick so the rest of us only had to follow wheels.

The finish climb shattered the break and the thin air and effort cracked many along with Hong. We all suffered like dogs into the finish in groups of varying sizes. The elevation and strong competition left us feeling like we were punched in the face while getting punched in the face. At the very least our communication without radios was getting better and we were hardening up for our next event only a few short days away. That night we loaded up and headed to Silver City NM for the Tour of the Gila.

With the Tour of California only a few weeks away most teams were present for Gila in preparation with big names like Lance Armstrong, David Zabriskie, Taylor Phinney and defending champion Levi Leipheimer to name a few. The first stage of this race is usually littered with break attempts.

As all 200 of us headed out of town the first attack went up the road and I dug down and joined a small group that tried to bridge the gap. We were caught shortly after as the group ahead cruised away, the days only break soon had 8 minutes on the field before the chase was established. With none of us in the move Lynch, Kai, and Stu joined the front of the field early as Lance and Levi hung out near the back. Lynch even got a sweet pic while pulling the whole field posted on the Radio Shack website.

That stud had a mustache. With about 25 miles to go it was clear that the break would be caught so I moved up and joined the fight for position in the cross winds. Five miles later something in the road made its point with my front tire and the next thing I know I am following Stu and jumping from car to car as the field is coming apart in front of us.

As I made it to the front again we turned right toward the finish. Just like that, the barrel was empty. Every bullet shot. I struggled in. Rudy had an awesome ride finishing only 3 minutes off Levi in 42nd place. Hong was on his way to a high finish as well before being led from the roadway and introduced to the dirt. With minor injuries he was ready to go the next day.

Day two started with high winds that increased in speed all day. The first climb came early and the field shattered all around us. We clawed and scraped our way up and through Pinos Altos. I just managed to hang on to the lead group of about 80 riders as we set up for some of the most incredible descending in U.S. racing. The combination of speed, terrain, and equipment makes these experiences very unique and exciting.

The wind roars through your ears and pulls at your limbs as the scenery and road blast by like a real life video game. The brake pads scream on the carbon fiber as you push your bike down into the apex and then silence as you let go and the grade pushes you through the exit like a turbocharger toward the next corner.

Kai was in the second group and went down in a corner when another rider dove inside him and locked up his brakes. The SRAM car gave him a new  flat bar road bike and he pressed on with his injuries. The rest of our guys made their way down in varried groups. The pace at the front returned to its fury at the bottom and I felt like I could be dropped at any moment for the next few hours. The winds were even stronger now as we made our way, gusting to 60 mph. The group provided some shelter and at the same time presented obstacles. In the last 2 miles my legs finally ran out of fight and I slippped from the back of the group as it split in the wind. The second most terrifying weather that I have ever raced in.

Day three and the winds had let up a bit. The Gila time trial course is like a rollercaoster. It starts with a climb and then its high speed rollers to the turn and back to the climb and a screaming descent to the finish. My legs felt good and I kept them in check on the climb out so that I would have something left for the last climb. Once over the top I quickly found the end of my last gear and spun it easily as I eyed up the first roller and punched it hard over the top.

With the terrain wide open you can read this course easily and play the changes in grade to your advantage as long as you respect the wind at these high speeds. My 50mm front wheel only gave me a couple of scares. This was the most fun I would have all race. So much fun that I was gitty the for the rest of the day. Everyone else had good rides too except for Hong who flatted early and had to walk until he got a new wheel from the first pit.

Day four and we get to sleep in for awhile before the crit. Kai started the race in good position but his injuries and illness were finaly catching up to him and he had to abandon the stage. Stu had that look in his eye like he was gonna see the front at the finish but a fresh saddle sore slowly pulled him from the front of the action.

Lynch, Rudy and Hong were all riding well as I struggled at the back in the tailgunner seat. My legs were tired and I was nursing my body through the race. It wasnt until the last few laps when Lynch and then Rudy started feeling the same way. Hong had a good ride and rode comfortably to the finish with the lead group but we were both mistimed and shown 2:30 back in the results. A typical bit of adversity that seemed to be a theme for the whole trip. Everywhere we looked a punch in the face was making us harder just as another punch was landing.

Day five. The Gila Monster. A stage worthy of the Tour de France. Two category 4 climbs, two category 2 climbs and a category 1 climb inside of 106 miles at elevation. Just crossing the finish line makes you hard like steel. Stu was forced to abandon and we were down to 4 starters on the day.

The stage started fast and there were crashes early that caught Hong and Lynch out. Lynch was able to battle back to the lead group. Hong was forced to ride most of the day alone off the back. Lynch planted some skittle trees while we watched Gord Fraser abuse the peleton with his caravan car in the same manner he used to abuse it on his bike. We both declared how good we felt, which wasn’t very good at all. Rudy seemed to be doing pretty well though. As we hit the bottom of the first cat 2 climb I found myself floating to the front with ease. Lance and Levi were just to my left.

Things were looking up. Inside the last mile of the climb I heard a click. What, no boom? Uh oh, no more bullets again. With a break already up the road I was fighting hard just to catch on to the second chase group. Rudy was in the same boat and just barely missed the group. Lynch later caught up with him in the third chase after what was probably the fastest descent of the day by any rider on the meanest descent I have ever ridden, the same piece of road that is the category 1 climb after the race turns around at the cliff dwellings. Once on the climb it became clear that I was cracked.

As I started to drift back through the caravan a red mini cooper wagon pulled up next to me and the guy in the passenger seat instructed me to get back into the race. So I sputtered back through the cars and latched on to the chasers. The weather was changing from light rain to light snow. A few miles later I again began to fall off the pace. As I drifted back that same red wagon and that same Abe Lincoln bearded passenger pulled up.

“Here, drink this” he said. It was a cold can of Coke cracked open and ready for my consumption. I chugged half the can like it was a hot summer day. “Now get back up there” he instructed. I let out some grunts and charged back to the chasers again. Soon after my legs came back and I was able to ride into the finish with the group. Rudy and Lynch came in together not long after and Hong shortly after them.

If the Gila monster were a cake it would be three layers of cast iron. The 27 straight hours of car ride home immediately following the race were more like a molten lava icing on top. Now my lungs are bathing in the moist sea-level air of the Pacific Northwest while my mind floats over those high desert roads.