The Holiday Update

The Holiday Update Part 2: Humps, Bumps, and Hefalumps

Roberto Rivers crushed the home opener in WBL 2008 on the Cappy’s Custom Cabinets New Year’s Day mandatory event with a ferocious final kick that ground the competition to powder. In trying to describe what Rivers did to his cycling compatriots on this bilious and blustery day, several words come to mind: annihilate, throttle, waylay, massacre, destroy, but these terms just don’t do justice to the manner in which Roberto gutted the other contenders and dashed their petty and insignificant dreams of glory. Sometimes there just aren’t enough grunts, groans, squeals, squawks, declamations, salutations, valedictions, rants, bawls, boasts, and bellows in the English language to adequately capture and truly convey the ruination that one man can leave in his wake. Even the most erudite assortment of aphorisms and rib splitting witticisms, even if conflated with the rhythmic tonality of African drums, can’t capture with completeness the totality of the wreckage that Rivers left behind—the wide area over which the breakage was scattered was just too large for the lens.

The skies were crystal clear and cobalt blue too, but because of the cloudless skies, any warm air towards the ground spilled upwards into the heavens, leaving behind a frozen artic tundra. The winds were also whipping in anger. Gale force busters were ripping though town at about a billion miles per hour, bending skinny pines to precarious angles, and causing the tallest of buildings to shimmy and shake. Flags were thrashing about on their poles, trying to tear themselves free from their tether. Birds flying into the wind were flapping their wings in earnest, yet moving in retrograde before giving up and turning back. And Bill Boonen was bitchin’ like a sinner who hadn’t been to church in a month of Sundays—maybe he hadn’t. The frigid busters cut to the core of one’s soul, like a stinging zinger from a former inamorata whose testifying for your future ex-wife in your pending divorce trial. In other words, it was stone-bone cold.

But in spite of the icy blasters, several hardcore pedal bangers—a farrago of freaks—put on their fur-lined boots, imitation mink stoles, real coonskin hats, and leather g-strings, and stepped out onto the blustery battlefield, ready to continue with the trials and tribulations that are hurled at them by the WBL. Some of those shivering bodies firmly entrenched beneath seven layers of clothes were: 16 year old tenderfoot Michael Proctor and the one who taught him everything—his mama, strong lady Nancy Jones; Joseph Collins, both a name and another tyro to remember; former Yellow Jersey winner and dancing sensation Shooting Star Bridges; climbing caudillo Nick Arroyo; Speedy Gonzo Joseph Collins; John Deere’s secret weapon of rapidity and love-making Matthew Gordon; the harmonizing harmonizer Bill Harmon; the maestro of mischief Bill Harper; the Troll himself Dustin Mealor; and Arthur Dance Studio Murray. Never had such a bawdy menagerie of bundled-up cyclists ever been assembled in one place before, unless one were to count last week’s WBL ride, or the one before, or the one before, or the one before…And we’re not counting any previous years.

The group wished upon a star, blew a frosty plume of breath into the air, turned the corner at Sunshine Cycles, and headed north, into the teeth of the tempest. The drovers put their heads down, put their cold shoulders to the wheel, and began pushing forward—it was time to get on with the task at hand. The group battled the howling bitch of a wind for over an hour. JJ Wadkins, S. Thomas, and M. Schectman, all Geals, helped pull the pack forward during the arduous first hour of the day for which they were awarded Yeoman’s Certificates at the end of the day, which are suitable for framing I might add. The wind was taking its toll on the bunch. In the days of yore, Muhammed Ali pounded the opponent’s body in the early rounds. It was body blow after body blow after body blow. In the later rounds, the adversary’s elbows would drop and Ali would send him to the canvas with one devastating uppercut to the chin. It was a proven tactic. Roberto Rivers, despicable misbegotten arsehole that he is, would use the ploy to his advantage this day too.

After 75 minutes of head butting with the wind, the pack turned east and put the wind to its backside. Now it was time to let her rip. The Jelly Man Nick Reistad went to the front, and with the help a few fiends, raised the tempo to an effortless 30 miles per hour. With gale force busters pushing from the rear, and Reistad and Co. pulling from the fore, those in between were sitting in the cat’s cradle, the sweet spot, the rocking chair. Life could not be finer, even in Carolina; no matter if we be cold, because on our butts you’ll not find mold: We be-are-is-am Zealots.

But all good things must end. And just like the unwelcome spider, along came some hills, and these bad boys were stout. Like humps, bumps, and hefalumps, they rose like waves and broke against the helmsmen like gangbusters. The irksome undulations caused the thighs to quake and quiver. And as the pack continued to ebb to the right, slowly turning and inching their way south, they turned back into the wind without ever really noticing, until it was too late, like when a civilization cuts down its last tree, and later people wonder how the stupid bastards could have been so blind. But those bastard hills just kept on coming. Now, unfortunately though, the wind was once again impeding the pack’s forward progress. Time for Ali to step forward and zero in for the kill.

175 minutes into the affair, the pack entered the first Attack Zone of 2008. The Whistler screamed in terror, for he was mighty azoomled and befrazzled about what lay ahead—his stomach was in knots, and so were his legs. Immediately the group was thrust up a short hill, the Mur de Winterville—a quarter-of-a-mile big rangy-banger with just enough of an incline to cause lactic acid splinters to sizzle through the innards of a rider’s legs. Matt Go Man Whatley made the first move of the year. He scorched up the hill, but he couldn’t snap the chord. Making the right hand turn a quarter of a mile in at the top of the hill, the group was together, although stretched a little thin.

Hesitation, then bang-boom-bam, Kim Potter shot out of the pack like a shoulder launched missile. And she didn’t come back. She put her head down, and with less than 1 mile to go, Potter was threatening to steal the show, hammering like a hellhound escaped from the fiery inferno. Behind, the big bear riding on the back of the others was whispering in their ears and saying, “Let her go, she’s a she, just go to sleep, sleep, sleep in the arms of the master.” But the Mighty K! recognized the danger move and shot off and gave chase.

After turning right, the group encountered another quarter-of-a-mile flat section of ground before plunging down a steep ravine, followed by the final 1 kilometer cantankerous uphill drag to the line that was surely to cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Potter stayed away on this flat section, and K was closing. Reistad and Schectman, well known women haters—except when they need a little lovin’, which is quite often—couldn’t stand the sight of Potter off the front and went to the head of the bedraggled herd and opened up the throttle. The pack ripped down the hill at 86 miles an hour at captured a spent Potter. But the Mighty K! was still away, pedal banging off the front like a lunatic escaped from the insane asylum, which more than few believe he is.

Then Whatley went again, simultaneously screaming, “Damn the torpedoes and batten down the hatches,” and bridged to K at the beginning of the final up hill 1 kilometer thigh crusher. With 800 meters to go, K and Whatley had a tenuous 3 second gap on a pack that was in tatters behind. Flotsam and jetsam was scattered everywhere, the wheels were falling off the bus, and it was skidding and sparking towards the line. The young gun Michael Porter suddenly launched and bridged to the 2 escapees with 500 meters to go, dragging five hangers-on with him—Glenn Bradley, Frank Marrs, Dustin Mealor, the old dog Crowe, and the sly Roberto Rivers. The wind was battering the group now headfirst like a battering ram. The winner would have to use his noggin—move into the wind too soon, and the broom wagon would be scraping the poor fool off the pavement.

A few accelerations reduced the front group to 5, with the remainder of the pack stretched out like a broken chain up and down the road behind. Climbing the last few hundred meters of the final hill, the five waited-waited-waited, watching-watching-watching, then Crowe jumped for the win with 200 meters to go. He was already imagining how his wife would spend his hard earned cashola. But Roberto was short roped to Crowe’s wheel, filing his nails, sucking his teeth, and powdering his cheeks. 100 meters from the finis he flicked Crowe and drilled the win going away. As he crossed the line unchallenged, he raised both arms in the air and yelled “I look fabuloso!” and he blew kisses to the crowd. What a bastard.

Carney, watching on pay-per-vision, was ecstatic. He was also drunk. He awarded extra points to Potter, Whatley, M. Stone and the Mighty K! for aggressive Attack Zone riding. He handed Nancy Jones a point for being the toughest one of the bunch. And everyone is awarded 2 points on the day, plus an extra foul whether point for the wind, for a total of 3. Good job boys and girls. See you soon.

Ride details:

  • 1st: Robert Rivers - 10 points
  • 2nd: Old Dog - 8 points
  • 3rd:Dustin Mealor - 6 points
  • 4th: Glenn Bradley - 4 points
  • 5th: Frank Marrs - 2 points

Part 1: Point Peter and Ultima Thule

History of December: Rolling out long miles at a steady clip through the rural regions and bosky, black water hill country surrounding Athens, Georgia has always been the warp and woof of the WBL, the foundation on which this cycling paragon for misfits, miscreants, and multifarious mischief-makers has been built. The brains behind this historic but clannish organization have always ordered the vanguard—those at the front, the pack drovers—to lead the blessed bunch of benighted pedal bangers into new and unchartered territories at the far edges of the maps. Exploring unexplored roads, gaps, valleys, and hollows is part of the legacy and the lore of this mythical cycling juggernaut. The fact that the WBL looses one or two riders every year only fuels its legendary status. What started as a half dozen cyclists roaming far and wide in search of adventure has now grown into a Fortune 500 company with followers (Zealots) dotting the globe and collecting money on behalf of their reclusive leader and spiritual guide, Briggs Carney, affectionately called “the King,” though most have never laid eyes upon him. (Many critics compare the organization’s fundraising tactics to those of the Hari Krishna who swarm around their prey like vultures around road kill. The Zealots, however, do not bang a tambourine, do not wear white robes and beads, and do not spin around like a drug addled dervish at a Dead concert. Instead, the fundraising arm of the WBL uses boiler rooms, telephones, a proven script, and Pay Pal.)

The rapid growth of the financial arm of the WBL catapulted the company into that rarified air that only the mega-corporations breath: Wal-Mart, Enron, Coca-cola, General Electric, and Jittery Joes to name a few. The expeditious expansion of the financial reach of the WBL along with the ensuing overnight catapulting of Carney into the stratosphere of “Billionaire” has been equaled only by a hell-hath-no-fury rise in the desire to win one of these sacred events. A professional rider without a WBL win has a palmares of dubious distinction. But to win, well, one’s resume becomes nonpareil, and the winner’s future is rimmed with gold: There’s always a seat at the swankiest restaurants; cars are given and driven for free; women (and men) are ripe for the plucking, anytime, anyplace, and anywhere; friends include Hollywood moguls, sports celebrities, Washington politicos, and French philosophers; and the million dollar endorsement deals rain down like pennies from heaven. Many riders have made deals with the devil to try and take a win.

But several years back, the Board of the WBL cut all sprints in December. Gone were the opportunities to win an event in December, and with only a dozen rides or so per season, the stakes became higher, the sprint rides fewer. In December, riders now receive points for attending and riding, and a few other amorphous reasons that only the King actually knows. (The King says the rules are written on a stone tablet that no one else is allowed to see. He says Eddy Merckx came to him in a dream and recited the list to him.) Now the smaller list of yearly winners reads like those answering a casting call seeking the fastest, the strongest, and the craftiest pedal bangers on this tectonic plate. To win one now takes not only Herculean strength and Sisyphean effort, but the stars must also be perfectly aligned: Fate, Luck, and Divine Providence must intersect at just the right moment and in the proper plane. Many riders now dedicate their entire seasons, their entire cycling career, their entire lives, to winning a WBL event. Only an iconoclast, or someone who couldn’t win one anyway, would try and refute this claim.

If long rides done at a steady tempo are the foundation of the WBL, sprinting, and winning, are the acme—the highest point, the ne plus ultra, the payoff. And of course wearing the Golden Fleece, even for only 1 week, is the point at the top of the pinnacle. But where previously one had to show a wizard’s mastery of strength, sprinting prowess, endurance, and craftiness to take the lead in the Overall competition for the Golden Fleece, now, at least for the month of December, one need mostly be a crafty s.o.b. Strength and endurance only make one more deadly. And this year—WBL 2008—through the month of December, the wiliest one of the bunch has proven to be the none other than the lady in red, Mrs. Kari Bradley. As January 1 approaches, Kari Bradley is sitting atop the dung heap, throne on her head, little silver bell in hand (see last story, Bullseye, for further explanation), safely ensconced in the Golden Fleece.

Bradley earned her spot at the top by starting and finishing all rides with the lead bunch. She jumped ahead on the shortened Talmo Loop when rain threatened, the alarm bells clattered, the pack panicked, and rocketed back home. When the lead group arrived safely back at Sunshine, she was the only female left in the front group of 25. She garnered additional points as a result and rocketed to the top. But little did she know, Ms. Kim Potter was breathing down her neck, arriving just behind. Potter sat 1 point behind Bradley, in 2nd place, at the end of the day. Big Scott Vitelli also gathered an additional point after being voted “Hardman” for the month of December. And that’s where the three were as they entered the two holiday rides over the Christmas break on 22 and 29 December. After the two events as the curtain dropped on 2007, that’s where they stayed. Heading into January with the first month and five rides completed, the hunt for the Golden Fleece is as follows:

  1. 14 pts: Kari Bradley
  2. 13 pts: Kim Potter
  3. 12 pts: Big Scott Vitelli

Point Peter: The holiday events started in fine fashion with the Point Peter Peregrination on 22 December 2007. A small but lusty group of 40 or so was in attendance for the opening salvo of the Christmas trifecta, three 3-hour rides over a 10 day vacation period. These 40 Zealots in attendance for PPP are like the barnacles on the bottom of a ship’s hull, or like a leech affixed to the skin—they grab hold, cling to the surface, and refuse to be scraped away. Like the ancient roach, these 40 rock solids are the Zealots who will survive the bomb blast. Pure meanness and utter contrariness, plus a refusal to conform to the norm, has much to do with it. If a Reader were to ever find himself in the unfortunate position of bleeding on the battlefield while looking up at the clouds with bullets singing overhead like a thousand castratos, pray that these are the 40 that were with you earlier in the ditch. Many others would leave you high and dry, but any of these 40 steel-willed bastards would crawl through the mud and pull your wounded ass back into a trench. You may die there anyway, but at least you’ll have shoulder to cry on.

The three leaders of the Wintertime Big-Ring Lunatics Club were joined on Point Peter by 37 other hard core, obdurate, unflappable, stubborn, and resistant rebel pedal bangers. Some of those nonconforming signatories on the exclusive guest list were: Jon Altman, who is so stubborn he refuses to bathe; Nick Dale, who will not stop clutching himself in public; Jason Crosby, who enjoys flatus-relieving lifts of his leg in church; Bill Boonen, a real rake who won’t stop undressing the ladies with his eyeballs; Dale England, who is so unwilling to listen to reason that he still wears bell bottom jeans; Jim Metcalf, who absolutely refuses to quit laying up drunk; Sam Rafal, who refuses to admit that he subscribes to Playboy because of the essays; and Leigh Valletti, who under no circumstances will respond to Robert Parks’s lecherous claims that his real name is “Johnny Rotten.” All in all, it was a healthy troop of red-blooded, albeit dimwitted and thickskulled, lads and ladies that rolled out of the parking lot and headed for those parts of Oglethorpe County where a gap in one’s teeth at just the right spot or some other genetic marker passed down through the generations with a harrowing consistency (Dumbo ears, bent chin, v-shaped face, one brown eye and the other blue) means your all from the same branch, if not the same limb, of the family tree. After all, most of us here in the South are nothing but one big, happy family. We’re Gaels for gawd’s sake.

Fate smiled on these lovable but dimwitted fools on this day. The pack danced between thunder boomers again for the second week running. Rain would not come until later in the day, but brothers and sisters, it did come. (Can you say, “Amen?”) But before the waterlogged sacs in the sky ripped open, the group clipped in, put the bit between their teeth, and set sail east, over yonder round Winterville way. The pack skirted around Hull, danced a jig by the restored 18th century brick barns now owned by the UGA outside Colbert, and gingerly stepped across the Watson Mill Covered Bridge. At this point in the narrative Jon the Kid Murphy and Eric KeimTime were ordered to the front and directed to step on the gas. They did. They pulled the pack across the wide waters of the Broad River, tapped danced up the big hill afterwards, flew through Point Peter like a double-headed arrow, and rocketed to Sandy Cross doing the pas de deux tap dance deluxe. After a brief respite and several shots of courage at a one horse saloon, the group was back astraddle their horses and zipped back home with no mishaps. When the closing bell clanged the pack had clocked in at and even 60 miles covered at an average speed of 20.2 miles per hour. Everyone was given 2 points on the gray and gloomy day. Back at headquarters, Carney raised his glass of bubbly and said, “Salud, the pace is ratcheting upwards! Soon there’s gonna be hellfire in the kitchen.”

Ultima Thule: The next Saturday, 29 December 2007, the last in December, Bradley, Potter, and Big Scott also signed in securing their positions as 1-2-3 heading into January. The skies were once again brimming with a thick, dusky layer of clouds whose bottom side seemed to be bulging with rain. But the WBL whether prognosticators assured the Zealots that according to their reading of the tea leaves, the rain would hold off until much later in the day. Of course, these were the same whetherologists who led the pack into the teeth of a torrential maelstrom two years ago on the first ride of the year, a ride that ended up with three riders lost, two of whom have never been found. The Trinidad Torpedo Emile Abraham said the last 30 minutes were “the coldest ten miles of my life.” And there was the 2002 Hard Labor drizzle disaster when the pack was pummeled by a cold, soaking rain the last hour of a 5 hour ride. There were some-plenty happy campers after that one—apparently the dummies actually began to believe that Carney could control the skies. Many had to be pried off their seats with a crowbar after the event. And of course there was the Alto epic from a dozen years back when the grupetto encountered a Noachian deluge of frozen precipitation while blasting down the Apple Pie Ridge with 50 miles to go. This was back in the days before there was a sag and 20 souls were tossed overboard during the blitzkrieg back home and never found. They are presumed dead.

There have also been those rides on which the pack drovers took a wrong turn. Four years ago what was scheduled to be an 85 mile adventure turned into a 115 mile scorcher after the helmsmen took a "shortcut." And there is the legendary trek from ten years back when a parade and a wrong turn in Winder turned into a death march that was finished in the dark. It was only fitting that Clay Parks stopped at a funeral home and begged for sugar water. Rumor is also that the last group arriving home was spotted riding in on the Atlanta Highway in the pitch black of night. Carney went into hiding in the mountains for a bit after that one. There have been so many, where to stop? Jon Krakauer is presently working on an unauthorized account of all the missed whether predictions and all the missed turns over the years. It’s 900 pages already and he’s only up to year 1972. The working title is Into Thick Shit: Oops We Missed Another One. Krakauer, as usual, will throw everyone under the bus but himself. Rumors swirl that he also will report that both the WBL whethermen and the pack drovers were actually smoking the tea leaves instead of reading them back in the day, a charge which Carney and his cronies “vigorously deny.” “Tea went out with Dean Moriarity.” Carney nervously added. “These days we’re into crystals, feng shui, internet dating, the White Stripes, You Tube, the Bike Game, Johnny Depp, and Jittery Joes Coffee. I only put tobacco in my pipe these days.”

But the rain did hold, and the group completed its adventure, added 15 more miles at the end for good measure, and averaged a quick 20.4 miles per hour with over 4000 feet of climbing.Some of those old firends on hand for the glorious day in which the ante was upped ever so sligtly again, especially by that arsehole Matt Schectman, were old fiend Junior the Punk a.k.a. Phil Southerland, Whit Tree Trunk Clifford, Joseph Cold-Hearted Collins, The Mighty K!, Jerry's cousin Michael Mathers,  the dreaded Jeff Shapiro, new daddy-o-on-the-block Jeffery Shirey, Georgia Tech's Frank Marrs, and the Lecher himself Kris Kringle. The group had a rip-roaring good time, the sun made an appearance and warmed the Zealots' souls, and there was enough trash talking to carry over at least until the next ride. (Click here for all the details: ).

But now its time to play. (to be continued…)