Burn Baby Burn

Burn Baby Burn

(WBL 2013 #2: Bowman)

About two dozen Zealots spontaneously combusted and burst into flames after taking part in the second event of WBL 2013, the Bowman Babbalooza, a 4-hour, 85-mile barn-burner run at an average speed of 21 miles-per-hour. At the time the Zealots blazed-up, they had just finished knocking back a cold pint (or two) of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. In fact, David Five-Oh Jordan had just slammed his pint glass down on the table, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand in rude and insolent manner, and said, "Arghhhhhhhh" like he was some kind of pirate when suddenly flames started leaping off of his head and soaring into the sky. A few seconds later he was nothing but a pile of ash. Only his empty pint glass remained as proof he'd ever existed. A mad scientist familiar with this type of rarely seen fiery irruption, the Zealot and fellow cyclist Dr. Wild Bill Lanzilotta, said that this spectacle was not in fact a miraculous event. "Rather it's based on simple scientific fact. It's a chemical conflagration," Wild Bill explained. "It's what happens when you mix electricity with alcohol and then strike a match."

I wasn't convinced. I needed more proof. "How can jest drankin a cold beer after a WBL ride cause yo body to catch on far?"

"Catch on what?" Bill answered. "Did you say far?"

"No," I answered, a little put out. "I said far!" I felt like he was trying to buy time.

"Oh, you mean fire," he said and smiled. I gave him the look.

Dr. Wild Bill went on to parse, and then to put back together, the chemical equation that related to the flaming Zealots. He drew a stick figure on a blackboard and pointed with a straight ruler. "You see," he explained, "after the scorcher to Bowman, many Zealots were sizzling with excitement on the inside. Hot currents of electricity were coursing through their bodies like their blood was on fire. It's a great feeling, by the way," he added, "like sticking your finger in an electric socket. Of course, this is the typical result one feels after a bout of furious pedal-stomping on WBL ride." I couldn't disagree with anything so far.

Dr. Wild Man continued: "The caveat is that after a rip-roaring ride like Bowman, the air is also charged with energized particles, just like the ambient air before a tornado touches down. It's this combination—the internal sizzle and the external flame—that creates the deadly admixture. Once alcohol enters the equation, then Ka-Boom!, everything goes up in flames."

We both smiled and shook our heads. It was pretty cool. Though it was a crying shame to see about two dozen Zealots flame up, many dear friends, as both Neil Young and Def Leopard sing, it's better to burn out than fade away. "Plus," Dr. Wild Bill added, "I'll have a better shot at a top 10 at the end of the year with those punks out of the way." Naturally, I was shocked when he made this insensitive and arrogant comment, but if Wild Bill's been drinking, you can toss his filters right out the back door.

The ride to Bowman and back on 8 December 2012 attracted a bevy of misfits and mystics, outliers and grandees, and all-around pedal-nabobs from across the globe. Once again over 100 Zealots signed in for a promising misadventure into the eastern section of the Emporium. Included on the day's start list was the lusty Joseph Koch, the debonair Tim Lees, the epicurean Jeff Shirey, the tambourine man Andy Scarano, the gnomic Philip Han, the immodest Paul Harkins, the natty Phil Dudley, the pecan peddler Ken Wheeler, the panjandrum Chris Stubel, the philistine Darrel Farlow, the roué Nick Housley, the servitor David Goodman, the suzerain Zoe Frazier, and the bibulous Russ Foster. After clicking their heels twice, twirling two squirrels by the tail, tossing a dead rooster into the air three times, and cracking their knuckles for good luck, the peripatetic pack of itinerant cycle-warriors clicked into their pedals and began heading towards the sun. And though the wheels on the bikes spun slowly at first, very quickly they picked up steam and were soon barreling down the road.

The pack first tackled the cruel upward slant of Nowhere Road before heading out into the flatter but much wilder, uncharted sections in the eastern districts of the Emporium. The eastern section seems to swallow up riders like Jonah and his whale. In fact, quite a few have been lost over the years and of those, only a handful has ever found their way back. And wouldn't you know it, the ones that are eventually found are usually the ones that we were hoping would stay lost. For example, Preston Houndstooth Henry, Andrew No-Go Hodges, Lydick Fleet-Foot Fletcher, Brooks Actually Lide and Brian the Hubster Malloy are just a few that were found that we wished were still gone. Don't get me wrong, it's not that we don't love them. It's just that I was angling for their stuff.

The gruppetto ratcheted up the speed after clearing the cruel contours of Nowhere Road and upon hitting the flatter part of the parcours, the large pack of steel-hearted Zealots flew down the blacktop like greased lightning looking for a pole. They sailed up and over the Big Hill at the muddy Broad River behind the impetus of master helmsmen Tank Crumley, el Magnifico T Brown, Miller Time Matt, Tony the Blade Scott, B Fight Club Parkerson, the Big O Oscar Clark, and Tytus A. Magner. In fact, heading into the store stop at the halfway point, the Big O and Tytus were having so much fun pressing down on the accelerator and causing a world of grief, anguish and consternation behind, they actually started to smoke. Many on the backside of the duo's jet stream were hoping the two frontrunners would burn up then and there. But thankfully the two young speed merchants eased back on the throttle as the store came into view.

After the store stop it was all business as the group charged down the infamous Nickville Road. Nickville Road brought back horrid memories because it was the sight of one of the most senseless massacres in the annals of the WBL. Only two years ago, the wind was battering the pack from the side and a brazen group of young Turks echeloned, rotated and dropped the Big Belgian Hammer. The grupetto behind, already on the rivet, in the gutter and spitting up blood, splintered into a dozen groups. Many were lost at sea and never found. They are presumed drowned. But on this day, the wind was maintaining a peaceful presence and the powerful pack stayed together as they pedal-ripped down the road. I was hoping against all hope that Clay the Pettifogger Parks might be blown out the backdoor but he held on and earned a gold star in the process. I'm not spiteful but I hope his gold star fades to a bitter bronze.

The pack continued its relentless assault on the asphalt and sailed right through Comer and in the side door to Winterville and from there came straight home by way of the Iron Triangle. Over 100 Zealots completed the entire loop and finished with the front group. Salud!

Many Zealots packed and went home, satisfied with their stellar 4 hours in the saddle, but around two dozen still wanted more. These were the same two dozen that would ultimately vanish in a cloud of smoke. For example, Brindles Cornett raised a pint to his lips and Poof he was gone. Brett Butler Magner too. Rootin Tootin Cal Hootin didn't escape the apocalypse and neither did Dark Hurst. Wattage Whatley burned up and Michael New York did too. Miller Time Matt, a dude from Georgia Tech and El Magnifico didn't escape the fiery furnace either. After all was said and done, little black pyramids of ash were scattered all around Ted's. Since Ted's is a sponsor I went to the trouble to sweep up the mess. After doing so, I took the bag of ashes home and dumped them in my rose bed. The next day, all my roses were in full bloom. I smiled sweetly and said, "My, my, my, how my garden does grow."

As the WBL heads towards the 3rd event of the other season, there is a log jam on the leader board. Over 100 Zealots remained locked in a death grip for first place with 8 points. But as the miles continue to add up, and as the sprinters move to the fore, room at the top of the heap will be but for one.