Birth of a Problem Child

Birth of a Problem Child

(WBL 2010: # 1)

The flamboyant fashionista and world-renowned boulevardier Jason Bewley strutted around on the stage at the WBL post ride press conference squawking like an arrogant peacock with its tail feathers fanned out in a rainbow of obscene colors. Of course, Bewley had earned the right to puff out his chest—he’d just pulled off a stunning upset sprint win and achieved the most magnificent feat of his sordid (and less than stellar) life as he swiped the Terrapin Beer Leader’s Yellow Helmet Cover in the first sprint of WBL 2010. Bewley, both a braggart and a blowhard, won the sprint with a resounding rocket-shot that shattered the intended target, smashed the competition to smithereens, and sent shockwaves rippling outwards from the epicenter of the the cycling world at large, Athens, Georgia. The aftershocks reverberated as far away as Mike Edmonds ‘s bedroom, where the somnolent sleeper still lay soundly snoring at one o’clock in the afternoon. At that very moment, Edmonds was dreaming of hand-hewn oak tables overflowing with fruit and wine and set in the middle of flowing fields of lavender and jasmine and scantily clad, buxom wenches. Edmonds was oblivious to the “menial problems” of the poor, and blind to the daily concerns of the vulgar mass. Edmonds was penalized 1 point and moved into dead last place in the WBL.

“He’s on the juice!” Bewley’s defeated and dumbfounded adversaries caterwauled as he thundered past to steal the glory, his back-draft nearly blowing the flyweights into the ditch. The brash Bewley, fueled by seven Terrapin Rye Pale Ales slammed in rapid succession, preened, pranced, prattled-on, proselytized, and poeticized on stage like Muhammad Ali, the Beastie Boys, LL. Cooljay, and Slim Shady all rolled into one. In between long, lusty pulls on a Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, Bewley bellowed that he could outkick any sprinter in the pack, and that the Golden Helmet Cover was his “for good.” After his eighth libidinous bottled beverage, he also gloated that he was “better looking than Sam Rafal, Kirk Smith, John Derussy and Bill Boonen-Riecke all stacked on top of one another and pressed together.” Though the visual image of such a salacious suggestion, ripe with double entendres and mysterious meanings, ushered forth disturbing, bizarre and nightmarish visions of naked men in prison, what the hubristic bombast failed to realize is that those four stinking plebs, even after adding their numbers together and multiplying times two (or even three), still score in the “Disturbingly Ugly” range on the beauty scale. In fact, the four aforementioned unkempt gadabouts generally dress as if they’ve been boozing for a week without taking a bath, not to mention the green flies that buzz around their behinds, a sure sign of untidiness in that trouble spot.  Regardless, even though Bewley did flatten the contenders with his devastating downhill turn of speed, he appears to be a Yellow helmeted prima donna and a Jim Dandy problem child to boot—self effacement is not one of Bewley’s traits.

Cold, blustery winds and gray, tenebrous skies greeted the Zealots on Saturday morning, 12 December 2009, as they signed in for the first event of 2010, the Around Athens Classic. The wind was so bitter-cold that it sliced through my thick clothing and bit into my bone like icy metal teeth, and the gelid blasts felt exactly like my old lady had both punched me in the gut and a kicked me in the groin. The flocculate clouds were so thick, and hung so low to the ground, that it looked like the small wedge of space in between was coated with gray ash. The chance of Old Sol ever finding a portal in this dreary glum was about as likely as Rob Yo Simpson turning over a new leaf and no longer being a complete, utter and absolute azzhole (ain’t gonna happen); or Russ Foster suddenly turning monogamous (you think Tiger Woods has it bad?); or Billy Boy Bray becoming a liberal on the far left (he still has a W sticker on his car); or Jeff Shirey declaring he’s no longer a vainglorious fool (can you say “the 12th of Never?”). And to add a pinch of turmoil into the mix, only sixty miles to the south of Athens, the skies were crying the blues, and sheets of a cold, hard rain was plastering the countryside. Unfortunately, Doppler radar indicated the messy green blob was slowly moving our way. But ye ole gritty Zealots are a stout and hearty breed, even if a bit on the slovenly side, and rather than kowtowing to Mother Nature like a spineless supplicant, they pushed back instead. (Actually, they held their breaths, closed their eyes, clicked their heels, and prayed it didn’t rain.)The whether-gods had already forced the WBL to postpone its first event only one week prior due to forecasts calling for an intemperate clime, and the Zealots were damned determined not to let the whethermen have two.

Even though the skies were dreary and downcast, the rock stars of cycling rolled out in full dress regalia, accoutered in all their fancy bells and whistles, to take part in the WBL’s first event for the Twenty-Ten season. Well over 100 black souls, blackguards, and black-hearted Zealots formed the nucleus of this unruly rabble that signed in for the first event, which was destined to be a frigid fiasco on wheels. At least we were guaranteed that if we all froze to death out in the Arctic tundra, or if we were attacked and eaten by a band of wandering cannibals, or if we were ambushed and taken hostage by an outlaw band of bikers, or if we died in some other inhumane and horrible fashion while trekking about in the frozen hinterland, we wouldn’t die alone. At a minimum, even if we made it back alive, we would all share in a communal misery over the next 4 hours while we galloped 80 miles over the countryside in 38 degree weather: Misery does indeed love company.

Several first timers were on hand for the big show: Jake Sadler, Brent Brookwalter, Cardel Locke, David Sagat, Chad Hayes, Chad Capabianco, and Robert Watkins. Several femmes fatales were present also: Erin Winter, Catherine Peacock, Morgan Patton, Emily Fancher, and Wendy Gardiner. And quite a few rock stars signed in too: Briggs Carney, Frank Trevesio, Oscar Clarke, Joey Rosskopf, Don Giannini, Damien Dunn, the Magner brothers, Brian Molloy, G. Nick Reistad, and P. Parker Smith. And finally, of course, the vulgar mass: Tank Crumley, Matt Tunis, Len Slote, Karl Langenbach, Brian Kee, Benjamin Jones, and David Hall.

Carney’s minion Crowe told the gathered assemblage as they were preparing to depart and chanting their final “Hail Mary” that Carney was awarding the pack 3 points on the day. The crowd erupted. Carney also made Crowe announce that the youngest Zealot in the group was being awarded 1 extra point, and thus would wear the inaugural Terrapin Beer Leader’s Yellow Helmet Cover. Carney correctly surmised that a tyro with the grim resolve to ride 80 miles in these deplorable conditions with this bunch of baleful (and scandalized) hammerheads obviously has a heart the size of a small chickpea, and the inherent ability to clamp down a bullet—in other words, a future killer. Zealots were tense with anticipation. During the decision-making process, David Nixon called out he was 14 years old, but admitted under close questioning he had marched with the hippies in the Sixties. Drew Genteman claimed he was 12, but yet his daughter is 9. Hunter Garrison claimed he was 10, yet he spent over a decade behind bars. And Ricky Fuqua had the gall to state he hadn’t been born yet because he invented a way-back machine that allowed him to travel backwards in time. Ricky was invited by all to hop in his machine and exit the building, or “shut the sam hale up.”

After a thorough review and audit, Carney determined that 16 year old Oconee County scholar Chad Capabianco was in fact the “least old” of the group, and he was awarded the 1 point and the Yellow Helmet Cover in a formal ceremony attended by both royalty and lowlife alike. Though Little Cappy remained as stoic as a Buddhist monk during the solemn occasion, his father, who was standing nearby, unleashed a torrent of tears. Little Cappy rolled his eyes and claimed not to know the elderly gent.


After the ceremony, the whistle blew and the pack pushed off and headed for the great beyond. The long cue of pedal-warriors sailed out the smooth and flat runway of Prince Avenue, and once beyond the last traffic light only 5 miles into the day’s escapade, they hunched over the handlebars, double-checked their resolve, and pedaled into the pitch. Because of the frosty temp, and because this ride was also a race with the approaching rain, there was no time to tarry. The pacesetters, hirelings and helmsman set a fiery but smooth tempo, and WBL Twenty-Ten was officially underway. The weaving, sinewy line of cyclists, buried beneath thick and complex layers of clothing, hammered north from Athens out the J River Road, and bent back to the east at the terminus in an effort to ride a semicircle around Athens—if the rain did hit, at least the pack could tuck tail, turn south, and race for home.

Experienced road slaves ruled the front all day long and pulled the pack up, over, around, down, and across the hilly landscape that ripples the map north of Athens like high tide at Kona Beach: Pat Rainman Raines, Nick Housley, Jered Gutcheck Gruber, Rob Yo Simpson, P. Parker Smith, Brent Brookwalter, Oscar Clarke, and Don Gianinni were only a few of the powerful pedal-people tamping down in a malevolent manner at the head of the herd, with the iridescent Yellow Helmet Cover always bobbing close behind. However, the human body has an amazing ability to adapt, cope and survive, and even though the Zealots were threatened by both the speed and the cold, the Zealots did not turn into a frozen granite slab. They actually began to warm--the powerful impetus at the front kept the heater turned on full blast. But the Zealots turned fate on its head when they started actually having fun.

The group rolled over the huge, waterlogged hills on Waterworks Road and cut through Commerce. The pack of heavyweights cruised out the other side of Commerce and continued on Hwy. 326, a lumpy route that meanders through back alleys and ancient hollers, and dips and dives into the remotest regions of Jackson County. Hardwood forests and rolling pastures dominate the landscape, prompting Don Gianinni to pontificate out loud that Jackson County would be a great place to dispose of a body. “I’m just sayin,” he kept repeating afterwards and shrugging his shoulders when criticized by the media at the post ride press conference. “Besides, that don’t prove nuthin. Anyways, I was vacationing in Buffalo when Buechel had the shit kicked out of him. I rented a room at the Days Inn." The Don waved a receipt in the air. "But I bet that bastard Buechel never calls me a ‘fat clown’ again.”

The pack ripped down the sloping byways of Wesley Chapel Road and tore into Madison County like there was a three-alarm fire. Halfway into the ride the air warmed to a moderate 40 degrees, but the sun was still invisible behind the thick blanket of fat clouds. From Danielsville to Colbert, the group continued to move rapidly, even though the roads constantly pointed either up or down—nothing was level for long. As the pack approached Colbert at the 60 mile mark, every rider’s legs had been tweaked, prodded, poked, probed, stretched, twisted, pulled, and yanked on. Carney is a master of disaster and a proven purveyor of pain, and because he scheduled a sprint after Colbert for the Yellow Helmet Cover, he was going to make sure he punished the participants. The Yellow Helmet Cover, he surmised, can only be earned by walking across hot coals, falling on a sword, lying on a bed of nails, or gouging out one’s eyes with a red hot poker. “Does beating my head against a wall count too?” aspiring Yellow Helmet Cover sprinter Andrew Smola wanted to know. “Only if you draw blood,” said Briggs, “or break your nose.”  Smola stroked his nose and contemplated his options.

After crossing through Colbert, the pack approached the battleground. Nervous energy pervaded the front as the contenders began to jockey for position even before the whistle blew. The pace ratcheted upwards and several rude and hurtful comments were lobbed about another rider’s mama, significant other, mental acumen, and ability to have (and to hold) an erection. When the whistle finally screeched, the frontrunners eyeballed each other like hungry hawks with only one frail mouse between them. They dropped down into a ravine, and on the long uphill pitch coming out the other side, three nefarious hammerheads stomped on their pedals and blasted up the side of the road. A black patch of asphalt opened between themselves and the rest of the herd.

But a swift reaction came from behind and a half dozen more unhitched themselves from the group behind and sped off in pursuit. Cresting the top of the hill, as the front three plunged down the steep drop and headed for the line 600 meters away, the six chasers were hot in pursuit and closing fast.

Both groups were flying full tilt—this was for all the marbles—and as the chase group made contact with the last rider in line, Jason Bewley bolted from second wheel and stormed off the front 200 meters from paydirt and held off the charging chasers to score the greatest sprint win of his mud-spackled career. Bewley, ever the bombast, raised both hands in the air and gave the double-peace sign. Dalford England screamed across in 2nd and Arthur Murray rounded out the podium when he scorched over the line in 3rd.

Terrapin Sprint:

  1. Bewley: 5 pts.
  2. D. England: 3
  3. A. Murray: 1
  4. Andrew Smola: certificate (suitable for framing)

After the sprint, the pack drovers felt a few scattered droplets of rain. Fearing the worst, Carney ordered his favorite son, well known arsonist and Promethian firestarter Nick Horse-Pull Housley, to the front of the affair—Housley knew what to do from there. Horse-Pull proceed to shift into his 55 x 8 and shovel hot coal into the furnace. Housley tore circles through the air without the slightest bit of remorse for those he spit out the back, or the faintest bit of compunction for those who were twisting in the wind, toes dangling six inches off the ground. Housley, showing the ardor and zeal of a hired hit man, simply flashed his pearly whites, and pounded away on his pedals. The group sailed home like a tempest blown by a propitious wind. As the pack of pedal-weary road warriors stomped up the final steep hill into town and rode the obligatory shakedown loop, the group was buzzing in the afterglow of a grand feat and an epic day: 80 miles, 4 hours, over 4,000 feet of climbing, in less than clement conditions. Once again, the lusty lads and ladies who form the itinerant gaggle of pedal-rotating fools irrefutably proved that they still like to fight.

As the WBL heads into the bowels of December, myriad machinations, complex conundrums, sanguinary solutions, and wicked webs of deceit reign supreme, unabated by pleas for mercy, cries for help, and requests to slow down. For such is the carnival of cruelty engendered by the WBL—such is the comedy of life.

Ride summary:

WBL 2010 Overall Standings:

  1. Jason Bewley: 8 pts.
  2. Dalford England: 6 pts.
  3. Arthur Murray: 4 pts.
  4. Chad Capabianco: 4 pts.
  5. 150 others: 3 pts (tie for 5th)
  6. 850 others: 0 pts. (tie for 6th)
  7. Last Place: Mike Edmonds (no show): Negative 1 pt.

H. C. (12-14-09)