Stompede! (#5)

This peripatetic pack of wandering pedal bashers and multilayered mavens of pain, known throughout the cosmos and beyond as “Zealots,” completed their stompede through the December no-sprint calendar bathed in a boatload of warm sunshine. For the final event in 2005, the Bowman Ball Buster on 31 December, the sun rose early, heated quickly, and basted the group of about 60 or so warriors and wastrels throughout the day like skewered pigs slowly rotating above a hellfire flame.

The fire was fanned by whipping winds and billowing busters blowing in from the west throughout the day. The 80 mile adventure was run due east over the swollen hills and elephantine hummocks of Oglethorpe, Madison and Elbert Counties, and across the swift flowing waterways of the Broad River as it cut its way back and forth across this section of the south on its rapid run downhill to the sea. The Bowman contingent of bigring freaks achieved the fastest average speed of any ride so far this season (20 mph). The pack drovers and helmsman pressed the accelerator to the floorboard, riding allegro con brio all the live-long day. There was no let-up at all—no sanctuary offered to the wind-battered and weary when they became untethered from the back of the bunch, and no safe harbor available for the mentally cracked or shattered. This particular pack spent the whole of the ride stretched out on the rack, begging for the alpha dogs pulling this sled to give the handle an extra twist, to ratchet up the pace a degree or two. Those on the front line in this fight were only too happy to oblige.

The Zealots prepare for battle

Figure 1: The Zealots prepare for battle

By 10 a.m., the temperature was already a sweltering 50 degrees at the departure point of Sunshine Cycles and riders were already shedding clothes—jackets, windbreakers, arm warmers, leg warmers, booties, gloves and hats. Junior even offered to lend a hand to the ladies, but they all smelled rat poison. (Roberto Rivers, however, did mention to Junior that he needed help unfastening his garter belt.) A few of the adventurers did manage to unwrap layers all the way down to bare skin, and with the exception of the soft skinned lovely ladies, the blinding white sight underneath was horrible for one’s overall health and general well-being. Some of those ladies on hand looking fit and trim, full of vim and vigor, and quite pleasing to the front side of the eyeballs were non other than the fastest lady alive, Tina Mayola-Pic; Yellow jersey superstar Erin Boots Winter; Aaron Furniture’s lightning bolt Kari Bradley; the Blonde Bombardier Daniella Dembrak; Penn State’s finest Ms. Anna Kelso; and Diet Cheerwine’s new hit woman for hire, little Ms. Kristen Keim. Looking at this group of picture-perfect ladies, I almost became an optimist. Almost.

Several nomad-Zealots who usually do their pedal turning in other corners of the globe also made appearances on this sunny day way down south and joined the Saturday morning West Washington Street denizens in their weekend quest for a better way of life. Some of the itinerant pedal bangers who were hooking up with the Saturday morning regulars to wander about the countryside at a most precarious speed were: former stage winner Jake Rongway Rosenbarger, heading out to the tranquil mountains of Boulder by way of the WBL; Brian No Sleep til Brooklyn Berger, bouncing down from Brookline by way of the WBL; the Godfather of Greenville, Jason Leslie and his girl Cindy Seattle, popping over from Greenville by way of the WBL; old-time country boy Zealot Byron Keefer shooting up from Florida by way of the WBL; and Eric Roman doing the yoyo from Penn State by way of the WBL. After all bodies—celestial, earthly, or otherwise—were reminded that they participated in these self-inflicted torture sessions at their own risk, the whistle blew and the bell clanged—the trek was underway.

The rabid pack headed east and skirted the edge of Winterville, blew through Colbert, and set sail for Bowman on many rusticated roads long forgotten by civilized man. Only hillbillies, wild goats, feral dogs and fat buzzards lived in these parts. The wind was positioned perfectly at the pack’s backs, and lulled the group into thinking cycling was an easy sport. The wind blew the groupetto up and down and all around. The pack was flying with military man Big G. Somerville extolling the slaves to push harder, pedal faster, and row quicker. After the first hour of the ride, the average speed was an impressive 49 miles per hour.

The Young Turks were also back in full force, attired in their red and white National Team kits, and taking turns pulling at the front with the bravado of a small army of rebellious Vikings. Henriksen, Murphy, Z. Taylor and Z. Bolian all punched their time cards at the front of the group, even scoring overtime pay based on the amount of minutes their noses spent slicing open a sluice in the wind. But the gang of old-timers refused to let the Turks have all the fun. IcePic, Boy Brian, Junior and el Prezidente all hoisted the load upon their backs and also gave the group a fast-moving whirl on the dance floor.

The Bowman parcours is not flat (4400 feet of total climbing), and many steep pitches posed high hurdles for the pack. Rounding a turn, the group was often struck by the sight of a black thread of roadway, like Jack’s beanstalk, rising straight up into the sky. The group faced the demon called the Colbert-Danielsville Road Monster Hill outside Colbert and wailed up the climb. The pack then stared down and stomped up the Bulloch Mill Bad Boy Riser immediately thereafter. The lusty bunch then careened down into the Broad River Canyon, standing and sprinting out of the cavernous crater on the other side. And all of these thigh burning, lung pleasers were before the store stop in Bowman.

The group of heavy-hitters continued setting a wicked pace in their forward march towards South Carolina, dropping lower and lower on their top tubes. The wind howling from the rear was like an injection of adrenaline. Unfortunately, a few pieces of ejecta—pack fodder—went spiraling backwards, like metal sheets ripping off the skin of the space shuttle in mid-flight. One unlucky young neophyte who was suffering worse than any bishop in hell tried to stowaway in the sag wagon, but when Cindy Seattle threatened to run over his bike, the newly dedicated cyclist was back on his steed and pedaling towards home. After battling the headwind for 13 hours, we are happy to report he made it safely home. His bike is for sale on ebay at an exceptional price.

The pack upped the ante again just before the store stop in Bowman with an unexpected display of rapid-fire hammering. On the run-in to the store, like the first half of the loop, the groupetto had to contend with a series of rollers. A few of the whirling dervishes began to set a blistering tempo, but it was all in fun knowing the store stop was just around the bend. The quads of all were burning and stinging and singing out for more pleasure-pain when the store finally appeared. “Ahhhhh, sweet manna from heaven,” Shirey yelled, “I’m gone get me a pecan pie.” As they pulled into the store, several riders pulled their extinguishers from their camelbacks and went in to put out the fire. This pack was smoking.

After the store stop, both the worm and the tables turned. So did the pack. The pack initially did the blitzkrieg towards Elberton with a propitious wind still pushing from the rear, but turned back due west on the Nickville Road after only 4 miles. It was 2 hours home from here straight into a battering ram—the wind, which was bellowing like my wife when she’s drunk. There was no respite for anyone from this point onward until the final turn of the pedals. The wind battered and blew, but still the Zealots fought back. They pushed and they shoved and they pedaled and they fought the wind with all the gusto and all the gumption they could muster. Scotty Edge and Bill Carroll and Stephen Dean and Doug Gilfillan and Damien Dunn and Turbo Gentry and Bill Harper and Bruce Jacobs and Tommy Mattox and BDB Matthews and Dustin Mealor would not, could not, be contained. The only place to find a small bit of protection was buried deep within the innards of the peloton, shielded from the wind behind a fat boy’s backside.

As the group bee lined across the covered bridge at Watson Mill, a series of unfortunate events did occur. However, contrary to what was reported in the press, Yellow jersey holder Erin Winter did not intentionally yank a piano wire across the road and catch Yellow jersey contender Kari Bradley perfectly in the neck, causing her arms and legs to splay outwards, and catapulting her like a windmill onto the ground. It was quite unintentional. Boots carries piano wire only to use as dental floss. This long piece of dental floss accidentally flew from her hands, wrapped tightly around two nails on either side of the bridge, and was somehow mysteriously pulled taut across the road at the perfect moment—right when Bradley came sailing across the bridge. However, Boots was given an official reprimand and her husband, Jeff Shireymania, was made to return the clif bars, power gels and pecan pies he had removed from her jersey pocket while she lay unconscious in the road.

The Pack sped back home without further incident, flying by the restored red brick barns (now owned by U.G.A.), climbing the Mur de Winterville, and cruising in through Winterville and the Iron triangle. Once again,the WBL’s policy of truth was adhered to as the total miles were 80, and the total ride time 4 hours. For the 5th week in a row, this had been another fine day spent laboring in the saddle like an overworked coolie. I was about to become an optimist again, then I remembered things would soon change.

Yellow jersey update: Those tied for the lead in the WBL 2006 Yellow jersey competition have now been sliced down to a dozen. However, with the women’s sprint looming on the horizon, the overall competition presently appears to be a 2-person race between current holder of the Golden Fleece Erin Winter and her arch enemy Kari Bradley. Although a computer generated model shows there are more than 13.4 million scenarios that could develop after next week’s Lula Double-Sprint Classic, most experts agree that either K. Bradley or E. Winter will be in Yellow all by their lonesome come Sunday morning.

Press Release: The WBL has announced the top 10 overall prize list this year as follows:

  • 1st: $250 plus spectacular prize box
  • 2nd: $200 plus a stupendous prize box
  • 3rd: $150 plus a nice prize box
  • 4th: $100 plus a nice prize
  • 5th: $50 plus an empty box
  • 6th: $40
  • 7th: $30
  • 8th: $20
  • 9th: $15
  • 10th: $10
  • 11th: an empty box
  • 12th and below: Guaranteed good luck!

Late breaking news: The animadversions heaped upon the heads of the hierarchy of the WBL by the national tabloid press of late are unwarranted, uncalled for, unprecedented and untrue. There is no truth to the allegations recently printed that the WBL intentionally encourages acrimony, unkind words, fistfights, drunken brawls, poker, divorce (if caught), carrying concealed weapons, murder for hire, lustful thoughts, carnal knowledge or binge drinking. Diverse talents such as Hunter Thompson, Oscar Wilde, and H.L. Mencken (a newspaper man himself) all agreed that most newspapers serve three valuable functions: (1) to use as lining in a wastebasket, (2) as literature for the illiterate, (3) or to wipe one’s arse with in case of emergency. Beyond these three utilitarian purposes, most newspapers today (excluding Athens weekly rag Flagpole) are about as relevant as a bucket of stale vomit. The unintelligible garbage heaped onto the pages of most daily rags are nothing more than sundry bits of tawdry miscellanea—the flotsam and jetsam cast overboard from that ship named Relevant News. The true story of the happenings inside the world of the WBL is printed only on these pages by your most humble and veridical Chronicler. And the Truth is that the days of the philosopher-kings* and bar stool braggarts are over. December has been left behind, trampled in the dirt under the muddy hooves of the Zealots. Now it’s sprintin’ time!

*philosopher-kings are those well-fed astrologer-cyclists who survey the firmament above us, scan the good folk around us, and make bold pronunciamentos about the world spinning beneath us, usually with one beer in hand and 5 or 6 empties on the bar. You know who you are!

The Humble Chronicler

A Couple of Young Turks

Figure 2 A Couple of Young Turks