Jon The Kid Murphy, the charmed orange-topped wunderkind, showed he has the braggadocio to become a dominating force in the upcoming racing season as he thundered to his greatest victory in his young career on the 112-mile Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup Event on 17 January 2004.
Was it simply Fate falling into the young lad’s lap, like Newton’s apple, or did The Kid grip Opportunity by the throat, back It into a corner, and present his own long list of demands? The Kid was at the lance-head of a strung-out, tongue-wagging, lung-dragging group that sprang out of nowhere and ran down a six-man breakaway in The Alto Attack Zone with only 1 kilometer to go. Once contact was made with the six escape artists, The Kid tucked himself in behind his lead-out confidante, Fast Eddie Hilger, as he (Hilger) continued to stampede towards the line with the untethered rage of a just-gelded pit bull. The Kid sat second wheel, with another youngster, David Guttenplan, now planted firmly in third as the weaving line of pedal bashers rippled like a water snake swimming upstream. With 200 meters to go, The Kid stood up, swung left, and stomped downward with all the angst of his savage and untamed youth. He hewed open a 10-meter gap in only two violent revolutions of his wheels. He continued sprinting in a rapid-fire flurry of maniacal up-thrusts and down-strokes of his knees as he topped 40 mph. The tips of his shoes tore whole chunks out of the earth and spat them backwards as they (his feet) spun with the deadly precision of a freewheeling circular saw. Ten meters from the line The Kid sat up, spread his arms parallel to the ground, palms upraised towards the heavens, and glided across the line. And behind, a roiling river of bitter tears.
As always, Alto proved it is neither for the faint of heart nor the timorous of spirit. The 112-mile trek to the outermost ring on the concentric circles of the rippled roads of The WBL is actually a journey inwards, into one’s heart and soul, shining a bright beacon into the narrow crevasses and black alleyways of one’s inner self. And what would one find: rotting carrion or an untapped vein of gold? On Alto (the ride), one’s inner being is torn open and lane bare for all to see, like a autopsied corpse on a cold steel table once it has been emptied of its vital organs. There is no place to run during Alto, nor any place to hide. The relentless hills and knurled hummocks to the north must feel like a row of shark’s teeth to the fingers of God. The blathering of idiots is nonexistent during Alto—even fools know hollow words are ground to a weightless powder on The Alto Triple Stairstep, and annealed into a burning vapor on Crackback Hill. The Alto 2004 epic venture was chocked full of 5 and ½ hours and 112-miles of sweet, thigh-searing pleasure-pain. But the weatherman should never have lied, especially to this passel of blood lusty mongrels. He should not have said it would reach 58 degrees when he knew it would not top 44. He should have told The Zealots it would begin to rain on them while they were still two hours from home. Then The Zealots would have known in advance that the last two hours would be a race against the relentless clicking wheel of Time. (When the first drops fell, several Zealots were tossed overboard during the ensuing frantic free-for-all towards home. We are happy to report most have been rescued. Some did drown. Names are being withheld until next of kin are notified.) If the weatherman had only been honest, perhaps, he wouldn’t be hanging by his toes from that tree with a piece of paper shoved in his mouth on which was written: “This is Alto Baby! Tell ‘em The Nalley-Lexurs were here, again. XXX.”
The thick, stagnant, gray and black streaked clouds portended trouble, but frightened none away. “ ‘Ain’t gonna rain,’ that’s what the weatherman said,” more than one aspirant, including Mineral Man, was heard to murmur. The name “Alto” entices like the cat-eyed Dominatrix who holds a leather whip and stands behind a window of glass—the insidious pull of the double-edged sword of pleasure-pain. Some of those signing in ready to impale themselves on The Porterfield Alto World Cup 2004 were tough lady Erin Winter, Big Jon, Daniel Holt, Fast Eddie Hilger, G. Turbo-Charged, Bass-o-Matic, Mr. Charles Reaves, Everett Baker, Flounder, Casey at bat, Big Daddy Garland, Chotas, The Polish Cannonball Wojtek Wysocki, Sommerville, Lambent, Griebel, Garin, McCoullough, Marinelli, Sperrymania, Hibberts, Novak, Bonfiglio, John Green-Jeans, Hutchinson, Berger, App, Aqua Fuqua, Stark Vegas, and P. Daddy Jones. Shooting Starr was there sporting lemon-drop Yellow, with The Blade ensconced in Red. In addition to The Lexurs, several other teams were represented: Team Locos was in full force, Team Kalamari too. Jittery Joes planted a few in the pack; and the ubiquitous John Deere jerseys gave the entire grouppetto a green and black tinge. Fairway was represented, along with Team UGA, RBM, Genesis, The Birmingham Slammas, and Team Krystal of Chattanooga. After the announcer reminded all concerned to leave the yellow line inviolate at all times, the rowdy group of 100 rounded the corner and set off on its mission, its bounden duty: Get on up the hill to Alto. Then come right back.
A brittle, glass-like chill frosted the air and caused the breath to fog as The Altopians set off. Gone were the days of sun and light that permeated the pack the last three years on Alto. Today’s skies reminded me of some of the excursions to Alto during The Dark Ages of The WBL, the early 90s. In an effort to break the brittle glass and shake the chill, the group hit it from the word “Go!” The group hit it up and out Nowhere Road (“Go!”), hit it on up to Commerce (“Go!”), and kept hitting it on beyond (“Go Go Go!”). The pack scudded along like a missile streaking just above tree line. I sat snug in the back, or so I thought. I could not see the front from my vantage point, it was a couple-hundred meters in front of me and continually bending out of my field of vision. But someone, or something, had already pulled the trigger. I couldn’t speak—couldn’t get enough air. We sounded like a snorting and blowing army of wild horses on our gallop to Commerce. A small seed of fear planted itself somewhere in the back of my head. I stayed near the back, looking at the dark ominous skies, and whispered, “Please.”
As we glided through Commerce, the downtown denizens of the sidewalks turned their heads, mouth hanging open, and gaped at the Zealots as they flew by in a myriad of reds, blues, greens, and Yellows while the circumambient scene surrounding them, through which they cut, remained black-and-white. As we sailed under I-85 and pushed beyond, Emus craned above wooden fences to have a gander at the odd assortment of whirring creatures that entered their world, even if only for an instant. Further north, into the sloped and slanted fields of Banks County, even the listless cows took a moment to raise their heads and speculate at to whether this dubious conflagration of spectral wonder brought forth food. I prayed silently in the back. I had had a bad week. There was much to atone for, and I didn’t have long—The Triple-Stairstep was coming fast.
As we skirted around Homer and scooted up the long gentle inclines towards Katfish Korner, an empty dread settled in the pit of my stomach. The closer to the Triple Stairstep we came, the heavier the compunction in my gut felt. Then, it pierced my eardrums: The scream of The Attack Whistle. We were two and one-half hours in. The Alto Attack Zone had arrived, the most prestigious sprint of The WBL. I fell off the back straight away. Big Jon picks it up from there:
“I knowed dat crazy hill. I be done rid it many, many times. I knows I gots to do de creepy-crawly at first, den slap it into sho-nuff hyper drive. And dats what I done. De big boys were a little a-feared at first. Dey crept up dat first hill like a blind man feelin his way cross a shallow creek. But when deys hit the long, drawn-out section at de top of de second mound, dey be done decided dat dey turn up de heat jest a little. But I be done holdin firm, along with about thurty others. But up dat thurd irratatin sister, somebody sho-nuff turned de heat on de full blastin. Man if I’d a-ben a steam engine my whistle a-done ben screamin. But I dug deeper dan a cold Eskimo. My thighs be screamin, my lungs be collapsin, and my head be expandin; but man, I done ben to dat place pleny a times. Me, jest like about thurty others, bit down on dat bullet like they wasn’t no tomorrow and held on all de way up de final uphill run all de way to de stoppin sign. Then we be done turned right and I knowed I be done has a chance to catch a breath pretty soon. But, I couldn’t take a breath right away. It took a second or two, what wit dose jumpy little crickets flying off de front. But they done be runned down by a pack of sho-nuff fire-breathin hellhounds. We scorched it on by de prison yard with nery a word amongst us. We went under dat bridge 600 meters from de line and I’s settin up to run dat sprint right to de earth, when lordy Crowe be done shot out like he be stingin in the arse. And there be Drewdini, just a-sttin on his wheel, insouciant all-like, jest like Brer Rabbitt sittin on dat fence post. And dat double-dealin Crowe thinking he be gone up de road fer good, and him just wailing for de line like he was gone throw his arms straight up and shout ‘Hallelujah!’ Then about 100 meters from paydurt, Drewdini walked by him jest as casual as you might walk by a downtown beggar without tossin him any coin at all. Didn’t even give him de cur-te-sy of lookin over at im. Well, Crowe looked like he done been cuckolded, right in front of his own eyes. Drewdini sho showed me he’s a magician. He reached down in ole Crowe’s back pocket and lifted dat hundred bucks like a first class pickpocket. I rolled into de store stop in Alto and patted Drewdini on the back and said, ‘Sho now.’”
I myself rolled into the store stop ten minutes later hoicking-up phlegm that had been lodged in my lungs for years. I was the last one to the store, and was in bad shape. The Black Box had passed me on the climb and left me for the buzzards. As I turned into the store I veered towards The Black Box. “How could you leave me?” I cried. “I saw your eyes, there was no trace of regret!” The reply was terse and pointed: “Just like murder, it gets easier.” I grabbed a Clif Bar courtesy of Jittery Joe and his wayward band of ignominious backsliders, and kept my mouth shut.
After the store stop in Alto, we braced for the fall from grace, the fall off the ridge of Alto, The Apple Pie Ridge injection of pure adrenalin. The pack hit the Pie Ridge Road and slowly began the roll to the bottom always gaining speed and always gaining momentum until suddenly we were clipping along at 30 miles per hour then 35 miles per hour and then 40 miles per hour and rolling and going and driving and pushing and then, without warning, the whole world opened up in front of us and the tops of green trees rolled away from us like the illimitable ocean itself and the road fell straight down out of sight in front of us—we were suddenly on top of the world, and about to fall off. And as we glided out to the precipice of the ridge without stopping, but hesitating, and passed through that two second interstice of time where we just came up on the edge and then dropped over, we all knew we had cheated Time out of at least a moment. And we fell down the hill at close to 60 mph as Big Jon and Jason Leslie lead the charge while others yelled, “Fat Boy’s Revenge!” All the skinny lads had to hammer to keep contact. It was a fine time for the heavy-setters and the fat bottom boys of The WBL.
But the bottom of the hill had to come. And then came The Stegosaurus’ Back, an anything but congenial series of sharp hills and irascible rises that morph the leg muscles into a quivering bundle of fried circuits. I was dropped, again, so Shooting Starr takes over here: “The Stegosaurus’ Back is an unyielding series of ups and downs that have caused many Zealots to wonder why they took up bike riding in the first place. As soon as you stand up and gut it over one hill and try to disguise your breathing so the little imp beside you doesn’t know your about to blow a gasket, another savage mound rounds the corner and stands right in your path. And these Altopians kept the pressure on. They pushed it over the hills and tamped it down them. Then, I felt a droplet of rain. Nobody said anything, at first. Then we pressed the pace and a few were lost in the vast expanse. And then there it was, rising up like a cobra—Crackback Hill. We crossed the bridge and the whistle blew.
“I decided to save it for the finale, so I watched the show unfold. Six contenders exploded out of the main field and pedaled up the wall with the fury of a schizophrenic mouse scrabbling for purchase on a sloping glass tabletop. The six crackbackers flew around the first bend and out of sight, with one detonating into shrapnel on the way. As the remaining five raced to the top of the one-half-mile climb, Fast Eddie Hilger accelerated and sped away to take the sprint, the 2 points, and the $50 bucks. We regrouped at the storestop.” I caught up.
After the storestop, the anxious pack of mongrels hightailed it for home. I drifted to the back. I saw plenty of old friends back there, even the announcer. It looked as if the bottom was about to drop out. Rain pelted us from the sinister clouds above. We raced for home. We raced to The Attack Zone. We sped across the land, causing at least a ripple on Times relentless web. We tore into Commerce and the rain subsided. We were granted a brief reprieve, a temporary pardon, but not a complete exoneration—we knew the rain was still coming, and probably with the rage of a twice scorned woman. So we motored through Commerce, out the other side, hit 334 and put our collective heads down, and continued to do battle with Time. Three miles out of Commerce, we turned left and entered The Alto Attack Zone. The Whistle shattered the air.
As soon as the whistle blew, the announcer went. He went before the downhill. He went to the bottom of the hill right away and then hit Killer Dog Climb. Only insane dogs are allowed to live on Killer Dog Climb. As the announcer trudged up the steep, but brief hill, a dozen dogs wailed in a cacophony of the mentally deranged. Michael Wolf jumped to bridge. As the sinewy line of the pack crested the hill behind, Dan Udo Holt bolted from the peloton. Crowe took the first right, 1.5 miles inside The Zone with a 20-second gap. Udo and Wolf-Boy followed behind, pushing clear.
The announcer reached Seagraves Mill Road, 3-miles in, and was caught by Wolf and Holt. Now, three more had jumped clear of the group and were trailing the leading trio by 10-seconds. The leading triad began the 4-mile run on Seagraves Mill Road and tried to break the spirit of the chase behind. But the three chasers behind, The Nameless One, Drewdini, and Roy Simmons, refused to yield. The entire 4-mile stretch down Seagraves Mill Road, the two escape groups held each other in check, neither gaining nor putting distance on the other. Then, on the final uphill gutcheck to Nowhere Road, the chasing trio sucked it up, and closed down the final, shrinking 5-second gap. As the six escapees took the final righthand turn onto Nowhere Road only 3 miles from the line, they had a 20-second gap on a tiring group. It was almost over. The winner would come from this leading core of six.
At least that’s what we thought. While the group up front sputtered, the chase behind penned its ears back, and took off in hot pursuit. The chase sprang up out of a black hole and was on top of the six as they began to position themselves for their own sprint. Fast Eddie took the reins, slid The Kid on his wheel, and hurtled to the line. The Kid jumped and won. He said it all afterwards: “This is my greatest win ever. I’ll cherish this victory always.” He had to be carried off the stage, with his $300 bucks and his good luck shoved in his pocket. Alto 2004! Epic!!
- The Kid +15
- The Announcer +12
- Henricson +9
- Drewdini +6
- Simmons +3
- Erin Winter +5
- Simmons +5
- Drewdini +3
- Crowe +2
- Guttenplan +1
- Fast Eddie +2
- Udo Holt +1