Tracks of My Tears: Alto

Tracks (Alto: #8)

The orange-topped prodigy that the WBL fortune tellers labeled a “wunderkind” over 2 years ago, John the Kid Murphy, flattened the strongest field of this other season with a vicious kick that cracked the asphalt and warped the roadway on his way to another stunning victory, his second, on the Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup Event run on 28 January 2006.

The Kid unleashed his raw, animal sprint—his métier—only 200 meters from the line in a star spangled explosion of speed, waiting like Attila the Hun until his victims were spent and exposed on the barren mountaintop, before charging in and lopping off their heads. He outflanked a world class assemblage of 18 pros, 3 national champions, an Olympic Silver medalist and 77 wannabe rock stars at the tail end of yet another tumultuous 110 mile day filled with a plethora of towering hurdles, a stout supply of spine bending obstructions, and over 8000 feet of climbing. But the Kid’s Neanderthal sprint wasn’t what caused such a clatter at the finis. Instead, it was the Kid’s brash and cocksure Cippolini Shrug that horrified both spectators and contenders alike. (It was as if an expectant child (me) had risen early on Christmas morning and crept into the living room only to find Santa Claus (Dad) sitting butt naked on the sofa looking at pornography.) The Cipo shrug would cost the Kid only 5 miles after he crossed the line. But the Kid couldn’t take the shrug back, even if he wanted to—the past cannot be changed; it can only be repeated. Time does not travel in a circle. (If it did, my Dad might be alive today. Maybe.)

The sun is a drug, and when it glows unimpeded and unchallenged in the sky, it attracts Zealots not only from the southeastern quadrant of our fledgling empire, but also from the nether regions north of the Mason-Dixon Line and wide left of the mighty Mississippi. So when the sun rose Saturday morning into a clean sky, it attracted the Zealots to downtown Athens like dope fiends to an opium den. (In fact, Rhino Barnett showed up with his hookah, his Dungeons and Dragons board game, some beads and a pack of clove cigarettes, but was sent home to grab his bike. Carney confiscated his hookah.) They came from round the globe for this one, the Big Mama of the WBL, Alto. They came from the foreign kingdoms of Quebec, Arizona, South America, Europe, Ohio, Australia, the Carolinas and Florida only to name a few. The Wizard-Zealots—Big Jon, Drewdini (Welcome Home), and IcePic—knew a day like this would bring out the big bats and the fence swingers. When their alarms went off, although they love Alto with all their mean little hearts and all their blackened souls, they stayed in bed a little longer, savoring the quiet solitude of their rooms, trying to summon the courage they knew they would need. Although it was whispered to me in confidence, and I’ll not breach another’s trust, I learned through reliable sources who shall remain unnamed that Slim Tim Henry was so rattled by just the word Alto, that he had to have both his girlfriend and his best boyfriend over the night before—one to talk and one to listen. Junior was the one talking, so I am told.

Signing in alongside overall leader and Blue jersey holder Wonder Woman, Kari Bradley, for this fun-filled day spent romping about the countryside in the sun drenched skies of the WBL were national champions Tina Mayola-Pic (U.S.A.), Nathan O’Neil (Australia) and Emile Abraham (Trinidad). Olympic silver medalist Ron Williams was also on hand with an assortment of Alabama’s elites, along with Joe’s Jittery Pros Tom the Tether and the Big Bean himself. Aerospace pros Brer Rubelt, Bruno Langlois and Brother Hugh Moran, currently in the Red Jersey, signed in too. Zak Taylor, Todd Henriksen, Hoyt Halvorson and Michael Wolfe were all on hand for the Young Turks. Habersham Bikes, sponsor of the Alto City Limit sprint, brought its finest with Double Starr Bridges and Stephen Dean. Skinny Dan, Todd Atkins, Chris Blackmon, Cleve Blackwell, Joe Burch, Ben Bryant, Russ Roundhouse Griebel, Travis Sherman, and Michael Franklin all signed in too. Over 125 part time pavement dwellers scratched an x beside their names, grabbed 2 points, and pedaled out on their trusted steeds into the wild blue yonder, fingering prayer beads, hoping to make it back home by nightfall. After all, this was the WBL.

I could feel the strength of this pack as soon as we dove down onto the Nowhere Road only 4 miles into the day’s peregrinations. Call me a percipient genius if you must, but I can feel the strength of particular packs, even at slow speeds, as soon as movement begins. For me, it feels like a train rolling down the tracks. Heavier and more powerful trains shake the tracks and rattle the earth with more force than lighter trains, even when only sliding slowly down the line. I can feel the vibrations in my bones. I love trains. (Sometimes I lay across the railroad tracks behind my trailer park for kicks. I can tell how many cars are on a train as it rumbles down the tracks from 5 miles away. From 2 miles away, I can tell you what that train is hauling—coal, cars, bails of dope or New Jersey trash. When I roll myself off the tracks as a train goes blowing by my whole body is turned inside-out and I can’t even hear myself screaming with delight. It feels as if an earthquake is ripping through my body in waves, like the film footage of the Bay Bridge dancing like a puppet during the San Francisco earthquake. Mom says I should stop getting drunk and sleeping on the tracks. I told her I would when I stopped drinking. Until then, I told her she could start drinking her own G— D— beer and quit drinking mine, and start buying her own G— D— smokes and quit smoking mine, or else she might just find herself sprawled across the tracks one fine moonlit night, just like Dad.) After only 4 miles of riding in this pack, I felt like I was lying across the tracks while a million tons of train was hurtling towards me like an avalanche of building-size boulders. I ducked to the rear hoping another member of Team WBL would make a stand. I knew it wouldn’t be me or Carney. He’s too smart to even suit up for this one.

The Alto Triple Stair Step

The warm sunshine temporarily lulled the group into thinking Alto might not be so bad after all. This might not be so bad after all, Joel Price said before Len Slotey whacked him across the back of the skull and told him to come to his senses. The winds were calm and the Zealots’ spirits soared like condors on a late afternoon thermal. The double stacked line of riders was so long that I couldn’t even see who was setting the quick tempo at the front, but the nimble group maintained a graceful double pace line while clipping along at 20 miles per hour. With 18 pros on hand, along with national champions, Olympic medalists, Pan-Am Games Champions, Commonwealth Games contenders and National Team members, these boys and girls didn’t need my help. I stuck to the backside of the line and was content to tell several lucky souls the entire riveting story, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, of my glorious, come-from-behind victory on the Tuesday Night Training Ride back in ’77. The front of the line was an altogether different story, one that I’m not privy to.

After 2 ½ hours of pedal turning, bawdy talk and silent meditation, the group turned north at Katfish Korner and flew down the hill to O My Gawd Gulch! Crossing the rocky stream at the bottom of the gulch, the whistler warbled for the first time that day. The Alto Attack Zone, an 8 mile torture section, was open for business. This 8 mile Attack Zone is the most prestigious of the other season and has a long and storied history. The first three miles ascend the renowned Alto Triple Stair Step, a series of 3 huge humps that get progressively steeper, longer and harder. The road climbs 900 feet in 3 miles straight up into the clouds. At the top of the triple stair step, the course turns right and runs along the spine of a ridge line for 5 miles to the Alto City Limit sign, 5 points and $100. The winners of this glamorous sprint include IcePic, Tim Johnson, Slim Henry and the crafty Drewdini. The losers are too many to list. (Like Dad’s friends.) The Alto City Limit sprint can only be conquered by a true, all around cyclist—one that can get up the hill in one piece, time trial to the line, then slaughter everyone in sight.

Before the Whistler had even finished the tumbling decrescendo of his most mellifluous warble, the pack of 90 was strung out in a single file line, the front weaving like a snakehead as it headed up the first hump in the three tiered step. At the front of the line, Nathan O’Neil was in the drops pulling as if he was the reigning Australian time trial champion. He wasn’t trying to ride away off the front; he was trying to punish those in the rear. His plan was working. Those behind his behind were trying desperately to stay muzzle to ass, but they were already suffering worse than any bishop in Hell.* Several former pretenders for glory gave up the ghost and let loose of the tether. They went sailing out the back like one of my Daddy’s cigarette butts flicked out the window of a speeding car. (Zing, he would always say. Then he would take a big, thirsty swig of his Tall Boy and floor it to 100 miles per hour. Sometimes he would say, Grab the wheel, Boy, I’m havin’ a heart attack. He’d slump over in the seat going over 100. I think I inherited his sense of humor. Among other things. Unfortunately.)

Over the first hump, the smallest bump of the three, the lead group was already sawed in half. Only 50 remained in contention for the crisp C-note as they rounded the bend and spied the second surly bastard directly in their path. At the front of the line, the Aussie kept shoveling coals into the furnace. Up the second hump, the front of the line began to splinter and fragment. O’Neil could not, would not, be contained. He finally ripped off the front and opened up a 10 second stretch of blacktop. At the bottom of the third brutish lump, the hardest of them all, O’Neil appeared to be heading for a dazzling solo sprint win.

The chase behind disintegrated to the 7 best climbers in the field. The grade of the third hill steepens to vertical and sends shooting pains through one’s legs that feel like hot nails being driven into the thighs. But these 7 warriors refused to quit and pushed the pace up the climb behind the Aussie. Henriksen, Moran, Shirey, Brackett, Z. Taylor, and the surprising Slim Henry were part of the chase. As he hit the crest of the climb and took the right hand turn, the Aussie held a tenuous 10 second gap. Incredibly, 1 mile later, the refusants ran him down.

This lead group of 8 was now being chased by a group of 6 which was being chased by a group of 8 which was chased by a group of 8 and so forth and so on. In other words, the shattered pack was split into several groups. I was in the 4th group and my new WBL teammate, Crowe, the one I had placed my faith in, was in the third group. I had radio contact with him and could hear the poor dumb bastard urging those in his group to pull: We can get em, the poor dumb bastard yelled. He didn’t realize there was another group in front of the group he was chasing until he saw them (the front group) in front of the prison. I could hear him apologizing quietly at the store. He left his mike on. Weak. Dumbass.

Up front, the attacks flew like spray from a machinegun. The Alto Sprint line is hidden behind a small hill, and favors the hometown hero. When local boy and former Yellow jersey winner Shirey jumped before the sign came into sight, he appeared to have it won. It looked as if Shirey had timed his jump perfectly. But Todd Henriksen wanted to play the part of hometown hero. He recognized the crafty maneuver and decided he would have none of it. He quickly stood and stomped, and barely latched onto Shirey’s rear wheel as he sailed clear. Approaching the line, Henriksen had the perfect leadout. He took two deep breaths, closed his eyes, said, May the force be with me, and stormed out of the gates and motored ahead to a spectacular sprint win. He was followed closely by Slim Henry and a rider yet unknown. (Tom the Tether has offered to take the points if the rightful owner does not step forward.) The Tinidadian Torpedo and Shireymania rolled across for 4th and 5th. Andrew Brackett crossed the line in the lead group with an incredible climb up the mountain and scored the win for the Non Pros. Tina Mayola-Pic was only a nanosecond in arrears and was first for the females. (Breath easy, I remember thinking, you’re too young to be having a stroke.)

Alto Sprint


  • 1st: T. Henriksen - 5 points
  • 2nd: Slim Henry - 4
  • 3rd: ?
  • 4th: Emile - 2
  • 5th: Shirey - 1


  • 1st: Mayla-Pic - 3
  • 2nd: K. Bradley - 2
  • 3rd: Winter - 1

Non Pros

  • 1st: Andy Brackett - 3
  • 2nd: G-Man - 2
  • 3rd: Skinny - 1
  • 3rd: B. Carroll - 1

After the store stop, it was time to have some fun—Apple Pie Ridge! After all, life does have its rewards. The front runners—Big Jon, Junior and Turbo—blasted away down the hill and when the fall off the wall came near the bottom, they catapulted down at speeds of nearly 60 miles per hour. Holy smokes Gomer, hang on to the bathroom wall! But all good things must come to an end, and eventually the Apple Pie ridge leveled out to flat.

Next came the dozen or so miles of jagged, little hills that sting the knees and twist the thigh muscles into tight, sinewy bundles of splayed cords. These roads undulate like 300 foot white capped waves. If a Zealot has any zip in his or her legs at this point, this section of roadway is designed to drain that zip right out. At the end of the 12 mile zip-letting section, Crackback Hill is waiting on the Zealots like my Mama waited on my Daddy on Friday nights when he’d come home drunk at 4 in the morning, without his paycheck, but smelling like powdered lilac. Until that train sliced him in half.

Crackback Hill is a 600 meter climb that shoots up into the heavens like a rocket. There is no place to run, nor any place to hide. As the group crossed the bridge and hit the base of the hill, once again they were single file from the whistle blow. This time it was Zak Taylor and Hugh Moran and Rhino Barnett and Murphy setting the tempo. The Aussie, though, took over. Halfway up the hill he took over at the front and began cranking out 700 watts of pure-T hellfire and brimstone. It was as if he was in fast motion and the chasers stuck in freeze frame. He took the sprint, the points and the cash going away. His dastardly actions showed affirmative evidence that a colony of criminals must have landed on Australia in the not too distant past. (Dad claims he served a little time in the big house over there. He should have stayed. Then he wouldn’t have been run over by that train. Maybe. I had nothing to do with it. He was drunk. They found his empties by the track.)


  • 1st: Aussie - 3 pts
  • 2nd: Zak - 2 pts
  • 3rd: Kid - 1 pt
  • 1st: Mayola-Pic - 3 pts
  • 2nd: Somerville - 2 pts
  • 1st: Bradley - 2 pts
  • 2nd: B. Bryant - 1 pt

After the sprint and the brief store stop, these salubrious lads were at it again—romping down the roadway and stomping over the byways. The sun was shining and the big hills were behind. The pack was 80 miles in with 30 miles to go, and they were cooking. The thought struck Michael Franklin like a lightning bolt: Dear me, we’ve still got 30 miles to go. His Adams apple slid up and then sidled back down.

The group sailed in and out of Commerce compliments of a police escort arranged by Carney ahead of time. They motored through Commerce, out the backdoor down 334, and headed for the Alto Attack Zone. This Zone is 9 miles and is usually hard enough to shred a pack to pieces, like Smoking Gun did to James Frey. It has steep hills, steady climbs, flat sections and wind. It’s all a macho masochist could ask for.

As soon as the pack hit the Alto Attack, Zone Brer Rubelt was off and running once again. I thought my teammate Crowe might be turning things around when he scooted up to Rubelt’s rear wheel and attached himself there. But as the two stomped up Steep Dog Hill only 1 mile into the attack, I could tell by the way Crowe’s shoulders were drooping that he was praying for a flat. Rubelt was pulling him around like a circus pony with a ring through its nose.

After allowing the 2 to dangle for 2 miles, the Aussie went back to the front and decided the party was over. He pressed his chin to his handlebar and motored up the road, field in tow. He scooped up the 2 and kept right on going. Down Seagraves Mill Road a few riders who felt lucky gave it a go, but with the Aussie continuing his full frontal assault, no one could claw free. The last 3 miles down Nowhere Road, the group, though reduced to 40, was still in one piece. In the last kilometer, the fence swingers moved to the front. Wolf then flew off the front but was brought back home. Moran went again, but was brought back into the fold. Coming to the line, the Kid hid 2 riders back, shielding himself from the wind, but leaving himself room to operate. When the other contenders in this formidable group finally dropped their guard at the end of the day, Murphy struck like a lightning bolt with a bone splintering kick in the groin—with 200 meters to go, he stood up and stomped: Game, set, match! But there was more to come.

As he sailed across the line, Murphy sat up and looked back over his right shoulder. His arms were outstretched and his elbows bent with palms upward in supplication—the same confident gesture Meuseuw gave when he won the worlds in 95. The Kid, also like Johan, was wearing an enormous grin. But the Kid’s lips were slightly more curled at the corners, like Satan’s, indicating a touch more malevolency in his heart. The Kid added his own knife twist to the victory salute—the Cipollini shrug. In a first time ever display of bravado, the Kid combined the Meuseuw salute with the Cipollini shrug, a bold and brash statement that was meant to send a clear message of dominance to his competitors. The Cippolini shrug is a lifting of the shoulders and holding them suspended next to the ears for a brief interval, feigning disbelief. When the Kid combined the two demoralizing salutes into one, the results were devastating.

But payback can be fun. After the event, the Kid was detained at the post ride press conference. Seizing opportunity, Emile snuck away to downtown Athens where the winner of Alto was scheduled for a photo shoot with a bevy of lovely ladies. Emile, feeling he’d been robbed by 2 cycle-tourists who impeded his progress in the final sprint, told the ladies he’d one Alto and “was here for the photo shoot.” Emile was like the proverbial fox who gotten into the hen house. By the time Murphy arrived, it was all over but the crying. Emile was now in control. The Kid just did the Cipollini shrug, smiled and said, Whattya gonna do?

On the ladies side of the equation, hats off to Mayola-Pic, Boots and Bradley, who all had stupendous rides. In fact, I’m petitioning my captain to drop Crowe from Team WBL and pick these ladies up. With her gritty performance, Wonder Woman, Kari Bradley remains atop the Leader Board. Both Boots and M-P have moved into the top 5. For the first time in the history of the WBL, the ladies control 3 of the first 5 slots. Next, it’ll be the world. The Big G, Greg Somerville also made a major move with a solid ride. He now sits 1 point behind Bradley, and appears to be poised to make his run for the jersey over the final 3 weeks of the season. Others making big jumps with solid rides were Zak Taylor, Todd Henriksen and Hugh Moran. Tom the Tether is also holding firm in 7th, an incredible achievement for this WBL neophyte. Right behind the Tether are Turbo, El Prez, Mulligan, Slotey and Dean, waiting and watching an opportunity to strike.


  • 1st: 15 pts. - Murphy
  • 2nd: 12 pts. - Moran
  • 3rd: 9 pts. - Rhino B.
  • 4th: 6 pts. - Pic


  • 1st: Mayola-Pic - 7
  • 2nd: Winter - 5
  • 3rd: Bradley - 3

Non Pros, 1s, 2s

  • 1st: Name?
  • 2nd: Skinny Dan - 5
  • 3rd: Somerville - 3
  • 4th: Brackett - 1

*Hat tip to Mencken for the burning bishop simile.

Red Jersey: (Overall Total)

  • 1st: 6 points - Dominatrix
  • 2nd: 5 points - Hugh Moran, Henriksen
  • 4th: 4 points - Slim Henry, Wonder Woman, G Man
  • 7th: 3 points - Z. Taylor, Nathan O’neil, A. Brackett
  • 10th: 2 points - H. Halverson, Emile A., Boots
  • 13th: 1 point - Murphy, Shirey, Bryant, Skinny D., B. Carroll, LLC.

Overall: (Blue Jersey)

  1. Wonder Woman - 35 points
  2. G-Man - 34
  3. Boots - 27
  4. Hugh Moran - 27
  5. Dominatix - 25
  6. The Kid - 24
  7. Tom the Tether - 21
  8. Zak Taylor - 21
  9. Turbo - 20
  10. Mulligan - 20
  11. El Prez - 20
  12. Slotey - 20
  13. Stephen Dean - 20
  14. LLC, Inc. - 19
  15. Rice - 18
  16. Stradley - 18
  17. Mellinger - 18
  18. Rhino - 17
  19. Henriksen - 17
  20. Skinny Dan - 16
  21. Shooting Starr - 16
  22. Mealor - 16
  23. IcePic - 16
  24. Bill Carroll - 15
  25. B. Harper - 14
  26. Bell Bottoms - 14
  27. Mattei - 14
  28. Rubelt - 14
  29. Stukes - 14
  30. T. Mattox - 14
  31. G. Bradley - 14
  32. J. Shirey - 13
  33. B. Jacobs - 12
  34. Andrew Brackett - 12
  35. Scott Edge - 12
  36. Junior - 12
  37. K. Keim - 12