Fire in the Hole

Fire in the Hole

(23 Jan: The Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup)

My astrologist is blunt and to the point. He told me that all my physical ailments stemmed from his opinion that I wasn’t having enough sex. He even hinted that I might not be having any sex at all.

My astrologist speaks only Spanish. I speak only English. A mutual female friend translates. When my astrologist said I wasn’t having enough sex, the translator said something back to him in Spanish, and she and my astrologist snickered like two conspirators.

I puffed out my chest and said my problem was that I wasn’t riding enough miles. I framed the answer in such a way as to suggest I was having plenty of sex.

My astrologist said that the position of the stars, the orbit of the moons, the transit of the planets, and the ever-expanding cosmos speak for themselves. He urged me to stay home on Saturday, skip Alto, and have sex instead.

I’m riding Alto I told him.

My astrologist begged and cajoled.

“Hale,” I said puffing out my chest again, “maybe I’ll do both.”

My astrologist stared at me with no expression for a long moment. Presently, he said, “Yea, and maybe I’ve got a goat with a 24 karat diamond shoved up its ass.”

My astrologist can be a real smartass sometimes.


Thomas Brown stormed to his second win in as many weeks as he fired-up his turbo-blasters in the final 200 meters and unleashed a furious sprint and blew by his six other breakaway companions in the grueling 2010 edition of the Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup. Brown’s powerful charge to the line came at the tail end of a brutal day as the final Attack Zone was winding towards its torturous terminus. After 5 hours of raucous cycle-romping at a steady 20 mile-per-hour clip, T Brown was barreling to the finish line with an escape group containing last year’s winner Slim Tim Henry, Andy Baker, Joey Rosskopf, Oscar Clark, Ty Magner, and two-time Alto champ Big Jon Atkins. A chase group of 25 hammerheads was another 20 seconds adrift, but the front group was flying. Brown bided his time and jumped the bunch with pinpoint precision in a perfectly-timed move that saw him leap away by ten meters and cross the line with money to spare. Brown not only snagged the most important WBL world cup win of the other season, but he also scored the greatest victory of his budding career. As he crossed the line with his hands over his face in disbelief, the dam broke and a tidal wave of tears gushed forth. Even Carney, watching at home on pay-per-view, was a teary-eyed mess. Of course, Carney was drunk by then.

Overall leader in the WBL 2010 Mike Buechel also pushed his point advantage out farther as he rode with grim resolve and dogged determination and scored vital points on the 110 mile, 5.5 hour day of bellicose pavement-pounding. Buechel, with his consistent display of pedaling prowess, once again showed that he is the man to beat in WBL 2010. On every occasion, and in the direst and most demanding of circumstances, Buechel has put the bit in his mouth and mustered the courage and the strength to charge ahead and tally precious points. With each ride, Buechel is shrinking the group of possible contenders for gold in 2010. At this point, Buechel’s feet are firmly entrenched at the top of the dung heap. But he can’t look behind him just yet, unless he wants to see himself stabbed in the back.

A large contingent of over 120 powerful pedal-boppers signed in on yet another gray, overcast, cold day in WBL 2010. Although daytime highs were forecasted to be in the mid-fifties, once again, the Zealots were duped. The mercury never rose above a frigid 45 degrees, and in the upward atmospheric realms of Alto, and with the sun safely buried behind thick blankets of clouds, the Zealots were downright frozen to the core of their baleful beings, especially on the rapid descent off Apple Pie Ridge.  Although the whether-wizards also predicted a dry day of circle-stomping, the damp, gray maw above looked eerily similar to last week’s porous skies that dumped a mother lode of freezing water on top of the dumbstruck grupetto. But this group’s focus was fixed on Alto, and like rabid dogs, they craved another epic day of pavement pounding, steep hill climbing, and big ring mashing. This boisterous pack was ready to ride, and some were even frothing at the mouth and bobbing in their shoes. (I was worried for my well-being and I remembered my astrologist’s warnings. I hoped he was wrong, but I’ll tell you this—I sure as hale didn’t have sex for 30 days before Alto. And Toccoa is 3 weeks away!)

Both old friends and first-timers alike signed in for the Alto epic including Adam Myerson, Andy Crater, Andy Baker, Gina Voce, Kirsten Davis, Matt Whatley, Cleve Blackwell, Slim Henry, Daniel Banks, Doug Pomeranz, Emile Abraham, Matt Crane, Whit Clifford, Joe Eldridge, Ricky Fuqua, Matt Karzen, Derek Imes, Billy Boy Bray, Stephen Leotis, Eric Murphy, Damien Show Stopper Dunn, and the irrepressible Celtic work horse Patrick O’brien. These were only just a few of the pernicious pack of pedal-people who had their ears pinned back and their blades sharpened to a precise point. These unflinching guys and gals were prepared to meet Alto’s arduous demands, and to even push back when opportunity presented itself. It was during these plentiful “pushing-back” periods that the pain of the pack became unbearable for some. Alto Twenty-Ten was top shelf pain in its purest form.

The long line of pedal-warriors zipped out the upward-angling Nowhere Road at a furious clip, and tore towards Commerce like a group of pumped-up warriors headed to battle with no regret. The lusty herd was treated to a police escort as they tore through Commerce and raced down Main Street parallel to the railroad tracks. We were safely tucked both behind flashing blue police lights at the front of the affray, on the sides at intersections, and at the rear shielding us from harm. The group ripped out the north side, burning through all red lights and stop signs with brash impudence, and after 5 miles of a police escort, the group was turned loose and continued its quest towards the rippled and rolling hinterland beyond the pale to the north. Once the pack was free of Commerce and beyond the clutches of the boys in blue, Andrew Smola breathed a sigh of relief. (It was one of the few times he’s been around a police cruiser with its lights flashing and not been arrested. In fact, at that very moment, Smola was out on bond on pornography charges. However, Smola claims he’s innocent, arguing that his recent low budget flicked titled Smola and Carney: a Night on the Town is a “work of art.” If it weren’t for the scene where Carney and Smola visit Parker Smith, Hunter Garrison, and Joe Collins at their love shack on Milledge, that argument might hold water; but, having suffered through that scene myself, I can vouch that it is pure smut.)

Two hours into the day’s peregrinations, the pack arrived at the base of the Alto Triple Stair-step and the whistle pierced the air like a blue-jay having its head sawed-off. The Alto Triple Stair-step is a series of three undulating hills, each one growing progressively surlier: longer, steeper, harder. There’s no chance to recover between each taxing climb. The third hump is a 500 meter wall before beveling-out to a 7% grade for the last mile. It’s easy to blow a gasket on the last 1 mile stretch, assuming a rider hasn’t blown an engine already. Only the strong and the stout will arrive in the lead group at the top of the Triple Stair-step.

The group of heavyweights slowly built up steam over the first crest, pressed the pace up the second big hillock, and flat-out hauled ass when it hit the base of the third steep slope. With each turn of the pedal, the front group grew smaller as bodies tumbled out the rear. Approaching the stop sign and the right hand turn at the top of the cruel 4-mile climb, a group of five moved clear, followed closely by ten more only ten seconds in arrears. But on the four-mile rolling run to the Alto City limit sign, the front two groups merged at the prison and only 1.5 miles from the line. A few were tossed overboard as the group raged to the sprint line with cannons blasting, but 300 meters from paydirt, the group was full throttle. Ty Magner, having studied aerial photographs of the area, jumped the group and nailed the Alto City limit sprint and the 100 bucks with the Big Apple’s Adam Myerson zipping in for second. The Zealots trickled into the store stop after the sprint for the next two days—it was that type of explosion on the hill.

Alto City Limit Sprint:

  1. Ty Magner: 5 pts
  2. Adam Myerson: 4 pts.
  3. Matt Crane: 3 pts.
  4. Slim Henry: 2 pts.
  5. The Don: 1 pt.

Alto is 1,000 feet higher in the stratosphere than Athens, and the Zealots almost froze to their steel steeds on the fall off Apple Pie Ridge. As the group stretched out over a ¼ mile on the 60 miles-per-hour descent, tears turned to ice pellets and whipped backwards in a sea of sleet and ice. Once the frosty fall of the ridge was complete, the pack began the savage 12-mile romp to Crackback Hill, the most difficult stretch of pave on the Alto epic. This section of blacktop contains half-a-dozen rollers that rise up like tidal waves after an earthquake, and twist a rider’s thigh muscles into tightly bound coils. These steep slopes continuously suck the nectar out of tired legs. In this section, we sat and spun our pedals for 60 seconds, and stood and stomped for 60 more. There was no time to gather our breathe over the top of a gap because the fit bastards at the helm were raging down the other side. And once to the bottom, it was time to climb again. My tongue was wagging like a bluetick-bloodhound on a hot summer day. And I wasn’t even drunk.

At the bottom of Crackback Hill, 72 miles into the day’s misadventure, another explosion ripped through the pack as the steep incline caused carnage in the field. The 600 meter wall separated the pretenders from the contenders, and at the top, Slim Tim Henry pulled away from a decimated field to take top honors. He was followed closely by T Brown and the dastardly Parker Smith. On the Non Pro side of the ledger, Yo Simson scorched up the blacktop to take top honors. With his 3 points, he kept Buechel in his crosshairs. Daniel Banks and a wily Buechel crossed in the next 2 slots.

Crackback Hill:

  1. Slim Henry: 3 pts
  2. T Brown: 2 pts.
  3. Parker Smith: 1 pt.

Crackback Hill (Non Pro, 1, 2):

  1. Rob Yo Simpson: 3 pts.
  2. Daniel Banks: 2 pts.
  3. Buechel: 1 pt.

After a regroupment over the top of Crackback Hill, the fun begins. The next 20 miles to Commerce are a series of gentler slopes and easier grades, but certainly that’s not to suggest the terrain is either gentle or easy. Not to mention, these boys and girls were tamping down the tempest with a ferocious bout of pedal stamping. The tempo remained steady and the group motored forward. The pack pushed towards Commerce in relentless pursuit of the prize. The pack was once again treated to a police escort through Commerce, only this time the gloves were off. Nick Housley pounded on his pedals with such bitter hatred for all humanity as the pack drove the Commerce that cyclists cartwheeled out the back and spun off into the void. Housley left Main Street a bloody mess, bodies scattered up and down the tracks. Alto 2010 was demanding its quittance, and Housley had declared himself the Ticket-Taker.

4 miles on the south side of Commerce, the infamous and dreaded Alto Attack Zone reared its ugly head. The Zealots had 5 hours and 95 miles in their legs (and necks, backs, knees, thighs, feet, brain, eyes, arms, and ears) at this point: Welcome to Steep Dog Hill.

Steep Dog Hill is a severe pitch that slopes skyward at a hateful angle. It’s 300 meters of thigh-searing, lung-burning, knee-cracking, back-breaking pleasure-pain. Over the top of Steep Dog, a group of 30 formed. The 30 were splintered up and down the road at first, but came together as the road dropped down to Seagraves Mill.

As the group of 30 turned left on Seagraves Mill, Andy Baker and Slim Tim Henry stood in the saddle and punched outward into empty space. The two quickly gained a five second gap. After 1 mile, the gap hovered at 8 seconds. The chasers, sensing danger in this move of two strongmen, both potential winners, were single file and in passionate pursuit. But the chasers could not quite close the gap even though Dustin Mealor and others were hammering full tilt. The pack closed, but Baker and Henry continued to pound away. But the two in the front could not break the spirit of the intractable chase behind. 5 miles to go and 2 off the front: a world of hurt lay ahead.

Climbing the last malicious hill on Seagraves Mill up to the final right hand turn onto Nowhere Road, Slim and Baker pushed out to a 12-second advantage. The alarm bells clattered. The two were on the rivet, chin glued to the bars, snot driveling from their noses, knees pumping, pulling on their bars, and breathing through their teeth. On the incline, Joey Rosskopf bolted from the chase and made a bold move to bridge. But it was a suicide mission—the two off the front had pushed all their chips in and weren’t waiting on anyone. Rosskopf had missed the move.

Despite long odds, Rosskopf simply motored across empty space, and after a gut-wrenching, Euro-style, mad-dog, leave-your-heart-on-the-road chase, made contact with the two leaders only 300 meters after turning onto Nowhere Road: 3 miles to go and 3 off the front (Baker, Henry, and Rosskopf). But behind, another 4 riders pulled away on the hill: Big Jon Atkins, Ty Magner, Oscar Clarke, and Thomas Brown were 10 seconds back and in full pursuit.

On the final flat and fast 3 mile run down the Nowhere Road, the front 3 (Slim, Baker, Rosskopf), the next 4 (Big Jon, Oscar C, Ty Magner, and T Brown), and the following 20 were all within 20 seconds of one another and were flying. The third group on the road could see the first. Big Jon (second group) had his nose in the wind and was steamrolling down the road at 35 miles-per-hour, with T Brown sitting in the rocking chair. The front three, with Baker pedaling like five galley slaves, was pouring everything into this move. This was nail-biting time in the WBL as one of the more dramatic finishes of the year was unfurling on the road in a mad dash for the line.

700 meters from the line, after an unforgiving and relentless chase, the group of 4 made contact with the front group of 3: the winner of Alto would come from this bunch. With 500 meters to go and after only 2 deep inhalations of air, Big Jon Atkins tried to outfox the young Turks and exploded away in a bid for the win. He pushed out to a small gap, but too much was at stake. There was just enough real estate for the young guns to catch his draft and claw their way back, with T Brown tucked in third. Upon contact with the rear of Big Jon’s wheel, T Brown catapulted from the group like a rocket shot 200 meters from the line and held off the stampeding herd of behind to claim a stupendous and well-deserved win. Slim Tim Henry, the speedy Ty Magner, the indefatigable Joey Rosskopf, and the stellar Big Jon Atkins rounded out the top five, with Oscar Clarke and Andy Baker rolling across in the lead group too. Buechel, showing the experience of a wise and pith magus, scored 5 points with his 2nd place Non Pro, 1, 2 finale, finishing near the front of the first chase group. On the lady’s side, Jamie Dinkin showed a heart of gold and an iron will and stormed to the win with a prodigious display of vim and vigor.

Kudos and shout-outs to the following persons for most-excellent and prodigious Alto rides: Remember, this is hard stuff: Fiona Handsdrin, Patrick O’Brien, Erin Winter, Gina Voci, Matt Karzen, Matt Whatley, Smola, Rich Nelson, Kirsten Davis, Kirk Smith, and Big Jon Atkins. And I’ll be damned, I’ll pat myself on the back too.

With 4 weeks to go, Buechel is in front, but the door is still wide open. The top 10 are still within reach of the throne, and with Toccoa still looming on the horizon with his huge potential points, WBL 2010 remains the tightest race in years.

I turned the lights and the engine off and let the ‘78 Chevy Nova glide down the hill on the dirt road towards the goat farm. I could see just fine by the light of the moon. I’d learned from past encounters, if you kill the engine and glide, the goats won’t spook.

Buechel and I bounced and jounced on the ruddy road on my Chevy’s rusty springs. It felt nice—I was still buzzing from Alto earlier that day.

The car coasted to a stop beside the goat field. I could see about 200 white goats glowing in the moonlight.  I handed Buechel a pair of tongs, a flashlight, and a pair of rubber gloves. I reached under the seat and touched the flask—I wanted to make sure it was there.

“I forget, what is it that you are gonna be doin while I’m gone?” Buechel asked.

“Miiiiiiiiiiiiike,” I answered with my slight southern drawl, “somebody has got to be the lookout. What would we do if my astrologist drove up? Why, we’d be arrested for creeping around out here at night.”

“And you say one of them goats has a diamond in its ass?”

“That’s right,” I said.

He smiled and looked out over the goats. The moonlight made his teeth glow, except the missing tooth hole, which looked like an angry black space. He grabbed the gloves, the tongs, and the flashlight and headed off towards the goat field. I could hear his tennis shoes squishing through the mud. I should have told him to wear boots—there’s goat shit everywhere. After awhile, I lay down and went to sleep. I dreamed of owning WBL, Inc., and having slaves, just like Carney.

My sleep was shattered when I heard Buechel scream, “Fire in the hole!” What the hale, I thought as I sat up and blinked my eyes. It was still dark, but I could see Buechel’s flashlight bobbing violently in the distance. I didn’t know what it meant, but I hoped he’d found the 24 karat diamond. Then I heard it again: “Fire in the hole!” I was filled with a sense of dread. I cranked the car and quietly drove away.

Finish: (23 Jan.) The Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup:

  1. Thomas Brown: 15 pts.
  2. Slim Henry: 12 pts.
  3. Ty Magner: 9 pts.
  4. Joey Rosskopf: 6 pts.
  5. Jon Atkins: 3 pts.
  6. Oscar Clarke: 2 pts (breakaway points)
  7. Andy Baker: 2 pts (breakaway points)
  8. Everyone: 4 pts.


  1. Jamie Dinkins: 7 pts.
  2. Erin Winter: 5 pts.
  3. Fiona Handsdrin: 3 pt.
  4. Gina Voci: 1 pt


  1. Jon Atkins: 7 pts.
  2. Mike Buechel: 5 pts.
  3. Crowe: 3 pts
  4. D Pomeranz: 1 pt.

OVERALL (After Alto: 23 Jan 2010):

  • 46 pts: Buechel
  • 40 pts: Erin Winter
  • 38 pts: Thomas Brown
  • 35 pts: Rob Yo Simpson
  • 29 pts: Jamie Dinkin
  • 28 pts: Dustin Mealor
  • 28 pts: Tim Cornett
  • 28 pts: Casey Magner
  • 26 pts: Damien Dunn
  • 26 pts: Joey Rosskopf
  • 25 pts: Jason Bewley
  • 24 pts: Hunter Garrison
  • 24 pts: Tim Henry
  • 24 pts: Ty Magner
  • 23 pts: Parker Smith
  • 22 pts: Finoa Handsdrin
  • 22 pts: Smola
  • 22 pts: Brett Magner
  • 22 pts. Sam Rafal
  • 22 pts: Ally Stäches
  • 22 pts: Crowe
  • 22 pts: L Slote
  • 21 pts: Patrick O'brien
  • 21 pts: Brent Bookwalter
  • 21 pts: John Murphy
  • 20 pts: Don Giannini
  • 20 pts: Bill Bray
  • 20 pts: Housley
  • 20 pts: Frank Travesio
  • 19 pts: Kirk Smith
  • 19 pts: Matt Karzen
  • 19 pts: Russ Foster
  • 19 pts: Matt Tunis
  • 19 pts: Rich Nelson
  • 19 pts: Lil Cappy
  • 19 pts: Nathan O'Neil
  • 18 pts: B Parkerson
  • 18 pts: Malachi Peacock
  • 18 pts: L Slote
  • 18 pts: Smola
  • 17 pts: Big Jon Atkins
  • 16 pts: Joseph Collins
  • 16 pts: D Imes
  • 16 pts: Scott Morris
  • 16 pts: Matt Whatley
  • 16 pts: Bibens
  • 15 pts: Kirk Smith
  • 15 pts: Catherine Paecock
  • 15 pts: M Patton
  • 15pts: Bill Bray
  • 15pts: Nick Arroyo
  • 15pts: Tank Crumley
  • 14 pts: Stephen Leotis
  • 13 pts: Bill Harper
  • 13 pts: Bill Watkins
  • 13 pts: Eric Murphy
  • 13 pts: John Newton
  • 13 pts: Ricky Fuqua
  • 13 pts: Billy Santana
  • 13 pts: Glenn Imes
  • 13 pts: Matthew Miller
  • 13 pts: Jered Hegberg
  • 12 pts: Matt Karzen
  • 12 pts: D McGarvey
  • 12 pts: M Whatley
  • 12 pts: Ryan Wolf
  • 12 pts: Bill Boonen
  • 11 pts: Paul Ozier
  • 11 pts: Kirsten Davis
  • 10 pts: Nick Reistad
  • 10 pts: Matt Crane
  • 10 pts: Oscar Clarke
  • 10 pts: Whit Clifford
  • 10 pts: Terry Crisp
  • 10 pts: Morgan Hunter
  • 10 pts: Chase Lanier