Mama and Papa



He put the megaphone to his lips and tried to speak, but blocks of ice fell from his mouth. It was obvious, his voluble eyes spoke volumes—the announcer had second thoughts. But granted, it was 7 degrees, and the steely knot of 35-40 Zealots who signed in for The Greensboro Classic were eager to ride. (“We’re not cutting it short, are we?” Drewdini demanded with firm resolution.) The air on our faces felt like frozen steel and cut like razor wire. The heavy, ponderous clouds were a dismal iron gray and sent Roberto Rivers into a deep depression.

“I yearn for Big Jon.” (Big Jon wasn’t there. After all, The Porterfield Tire Alto World Cup was next week.) “Where’s the sprint?” both Boy Brian and The Kid queried. The announcer again tried to respond. Once again, big blocks of ice crashed to the pavement. So the Zealots rode and cancelled the sprint, not knowing where it was. But The Zealots punished the announcer; they made him do the full distance—90 miles. And what a 90 miles it was. As the peddlers of granite-like determination sped down Milledge Avenue, a light snow fell on the back of a Shooting Starr, who radiated in lemon-drop Yellow. He smiled and held out his tongue. The announcer frowned and whispered only to himself: “Damned Canadian.”

This rapacious pack of demon-dog cyclists came to ride: They quickly motored south to Watkinsville, then hit the Colham Ferry Road, and dropped due south from there like a falling steel beam from fifty flights up. The Greenville Godfather and his cohort in hijinx Todd Jeremiah Johnson Branham piloted the ship of fools for long, lusty stretches. The Loganville Legend took the helm too. The Pettifogger and The Jamaican Lioness took their turns at the wheel, along with Pres Nixon, Jittery Joe, and the Pomegranate too. T Bass was up there, J. Matan at his side, Gemera behind, Jake Kiser cried. But as they clipped along down Colham Ferry and turned east to Greensboro, all thoughts turned north, to the one, the only, The Granddaddy of Them All—Alto.

And Paul Don Newman dreamed of winning the coveted Alto Event. He knew the winner is always guaranteed good luck for a year. “And Big Jon’s year is up,” whispered Chris Andrus. Michael Franklin knew it well: Alto starts with a gentle run out Prince Avenue and down The Jefferson Riviera Road. The pack cuts over The Brockton Loop, and veers north to Commerce via the cruel Waterworks Road. Once through Commerce, the pack rips in bloc due north, past I 85, and into the forgotten terrain beyond rippled with vicious hills and hummocks. But they’re not there yet. Past I 85, there is still an hour or more of long, steady rises that continually force the pack onto higher ground. But after a series of sweet-mama-come-to-pappy rural backroads, the pack does finally come to Catfish Corner, and the first Attack Zone.

The first Attack Zone ends at The Alto City Limit sign. It is 8 miles. It is the most prestigious mid-ride sprint in The WBL. $100 goes to the winner, and 3 points. In the Alto Attack Zone, the obstacle is The Alto Triple stairstep, a 5 mile-in-length section containing three difficult hills. Each hill is progressively worse. The last is a wicked little stepsister. A normal human will be in the little ring. At the top of the stairstep is a stop sign, at which the obliterated pack will turn right. It is 3 fast, rolling miles to the line. Riders will pass the infamous Alto Prison to the left. The expansive prison yards are as big as three football fields. (Don’t be distracted by the catcalls if the habitués of Hotel Alto are frolicking in the yard, especially if you’re off the front, or have long, blonde hair.) The combatants travel past the prison for another mile, go under a concrete bridge, and sprint it out for the win, the $100, and the three points in the Sprint Competition. The pack is now 50 miles in. Hello store stop. The pack regroups. (2 pts. To 2nd, 1 to 3rd. 2 pts to 1st Non Pro, 1 , 2; 1 pt. To 2nd.)

After the storestop in Alto, The Zealots are rewarded for all the hard work. What goes up must come down. The groupetto descends Apple Pie Ridge Road. The Pie Ridge is just that—a ridge. The pack will ride down gradually from the middle of the pie until it gets to the ridge, about 3-4 miles down. Then, the riders will drop off a wall, or a ridge. Look for Big Jon to top 62 mph. (Pucker up, put your head down, and grip your drops tight!)

After The Apple Pie shot of pure adrenaline, grit your teeth—here comes the Brontosaurus’ Back. The Brontosaurus’ Back is an interminable series of knee cracking climbs culminating after 15 miles with the beast called Crackback Hill. Crackback Hill is a sho-nuff straight-up wall of about ¼ of a mile. It is short, but will atone for many sins. There is an Attack Zone that opens at the bottom of the climb and ends at the top. (Look for the line in the road.) To the winner goes another $50 and another two points. (1 pt. To 2nd.) The second storstop is 3 miles ahead. This will be a quick regrouping, not a full-fledged stop. When The Black Box arrives, the ride continues. (Remember, the purpose of this brief stop is to allow a general regrouping.) At the second storstop, the group is about 75-80 miles in.

The pack will bend east, then back south, and set sail back to Commerce. The hills continue to roll. Nothing is flat. Nothing comes easy. You are cresting the watermark of pleasure-pain. It is about 20 miles to Commerce from the 2nd storestop.

The pack will continue through Commerce and out 334. Down 334 the group will turn into The Alto Attack Zone and immediately hit Killer Dog Hill. (For a full description of The Alto Attack Zone, see Ride Info page.) The Attack Zone is 9.5 miles, and another 5 miles in from The Jackson County sign (the final sprint) on Nowhere Road to The Sunshine Parking lot. Total length of the ride is somewhere roundabout in the general vicinity and neighboring hood of approximately 110 miles, or so. It will take 5.5 to 6 hours ride time.

As we screamed back towards Athens in the biting 37-degree air this past weekend, Lambert and Henderson dreamed of putting their names beside the former winners. They talked of who might win: “Could Big Jon take it for the third time, a record. He’s the only one to win twice, out-muscling his competition in two massive and thunderous breakaway sprint wins. Or could Pic run the sprint line to earth again and snatch victory from the clutches of defeat…for the third time this year, his second Alto ever. Or could Crowe overcome his recent bout with mad buttocks disease to pull off his second Alto lifer. And The Milkman, don’t forget about him, has been working overtime at the dairy farm. He could hit a double. But it could be me. Or maybe even me,” they said. (Or, perhaps me.)

The Greensboro frozen-toed Zealots completed the 90 mile outing in a hasty 4 ¼ hours, jumped in their cars straight away, brimming, and sped away…still dreaming of Alto. It was a glorious, albeit demanding, day of turning the pedals round in circles.

See you this Saturday, in Alto!