The Devil slid his bishop diagonally across the board, sat back, and smiled. 2004 sailed out of the dingy railcar with his huge arms flailing like windmills. He landed in the middle of the muck with a heavy thud.
The baby giant was briefly blinded by the unusual brilliance of the New Year Sun. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, and squinted his virgin eyes. The door to the railcar slammed shut behind him. He put his hand over his eyes, trying to shield his baby blues from the Sun’s implacable weight that was pressing down on all those on the topside of the soil like a guilty conscious. The behemoth child wore the benighted grin of an idiot son. He wore a festive crown of gilded lotus leaves on his head. His tremendous legs rippled with white waves of fat as he girded himself under the strain of his massive poundage. He unknowingly straddled two glistening lines of black steel driving out from both his legs in opposite directions—railroad tracks. The tracks ran in two thin black threads stretching from the woods on the eastern edge of the yard, straight to and through the behemoth’s legs, and on out the western side of the yard into the vast and treacherous expanse of the arcane roads of The WBL. His besotted father, 2003, had given the young novice sage advice before patting him on the back and pushing him out of the unlighted, filthy train car. The bewhiskered old cynical hobo sucked the remaining drops from a dirty and dented can of PBR he had wrested from The Genius Mastermind, and tossed a large silver ring of oversized skeleton keys into the baby behemoth’s hand, and said, “Good luck kid. Do all the things I should have done. Try not to drink too much, and don’t forget to always figger out where you stand. Keep a sense of humor. And don’t forget to ride your damn bike. That’s where I went bad.” Then: Boot in the ass—welcome to the brilliance of life.
The baby giant never knew what hit him. The WBL pain train raged in silent fury at that very moment beyond the hidden shadows at the eastern edge of the yard, speeding westward to the Sunshine Cycles parking lot. What started as an amble, then a lope, then a gait, was now a big ring bullet scudding through the web of time towards the idiot behemoth and beyond. And he just stood there shielding his eyes, and grinning the idiot’s grin. After the cloud of dust settled, the colossus lay in a pile on the tracks. After at least a minute, the wiser-with-experience youth sat up, rubbed his head, and said, “I need a drink.” The WBL Weekend Train with its cargo of pain never even stopped nor slowed. It sped off into the horizon, whistle screaming, with its three engineers—PicMan, Murphy The Kid, and Shooting Starr—staring at something unseen, ahead, over the horizon, something yellow. And so the motto was set in stone for The New Year’s Weekend Events: Kill or be killed.
The CEO ordered a double dose of pleasure-pain as he treated The Zealots to two Official Events over The New Year’s weekend on Thursday (Jan. 1) and Saturday (Jan. 3). Jon The Kid Murphy and his Nalley-Lexus teammates treated The Zealots rather rudely as they took a “take no prisoners” approach on the first ride of the year and won the FS Concepts Classic (Fetty Training Systems). The Kid crushed the final uphill sprint, as well as all challengers, and took his second lifetime WBL win, a lofty feat for a 19-year old cocksure coxcomb whose voice changed only two months back. Then, on Saturday, IcePic and Shooting Starr stomped the Zealots into a flat wail of surrender as they finished 1-2 on The John Deere/Sunshine Cycles Lula Classic. IcePic became the first rider to do the double as he took his second win in as many weeks, and may be the only one capable of ever lassoing the Shooting Starr. Shooter leapt away from all other G.C. pretenders with his ferocious Saturday sprint, placing second, and nearly winning the event outright. The average speed for Saturday’s record-breaking day was 62 mph. Many wept as they drove away from the Lula Classic, realizing they were, and would always be, part of this historical day in (and out of) the saddle. 10 minutes after the main group arrived safely home, 2004 came storming into the parking lot on his Bianchi. “What’s next week,” he demanded to know, “I’m ready to fight.”
Thursday, January 1, saw a small but sturdy field of fifty sign in, guaranteeing themselves good luck for the remainder of the 2004. The Rainman Pat Raines made the trek from Raleigh for a weekend of debauch with a little training thrown in for good measure. Karu Kalle, Estonia’s highest placed G.C. rider (5th) signed in, ready to defend his country’s position. Jed Schneider rolled up with his yammering Nalley-Lexus pups in tow. Drewdini and The Blade, each New Year’s Day victors, were both on hand carrying loaded dice and hoping for a repeat performance. The Canadian Mafia was back too, from Canada, with the evil demon-dog “Penny.” Danny Dembrak showed up also, with a pair of angry thighs. Calhoun slunk in reeking of cigarettes, gin, and women, and wearing a two-day-old beard and mirror Ray Bans. “Damn I look good,” David Nixon cackled as he stared straight into Calhoun’s mirrored eyes. Root Dog Rudy J. for Johnson boldly proclaimed yellow would be heading to Augusta shortly—on his back. Noah Fouts was there claiming he was prepared “to sail the seven seas.” No one knew what he meant, but he did have a car full of good-looking goats. Roberto Rivers offered “two bits for one,” but Noah wasn’t selling. Chris Andrus appeared, pleased to learn his appearance alone was worth 3 points. The Milkman was on hand, his taut belly gorged on milk and cheese. Joe Burch was there, and so was Mitch Mitko. Mineral Man glided in, lying low. The Bogartarian rode in, with Paul Ozier in tow. Along for the adventure also was: Hammer Head McCoy, Good Money Selgin, G-Man Arnette, Michael Wolf-Boy, Scott Hodge, Matthew Bannick, and Christian Blevins too. After a yellow line admonition, the cowbell clanged and Shooting Starr, wearing The Golden Fleece, and Major General Jacobian Fetty, lead the Zealots outward towards their assignation with destiny.
The New Year’s Day denizens set their sights on the Watsonian Mill Bridge and immediately set sail, the wind at their backs. The Loganville Legend, Allen Hurd, sitting in third place in the overall, demanded that the average speed be held at 20 mph. And so it was, with pleasure. Those on the front side of the groupetto sailed eastward in the big ring with the grace of a ballerina and the ease of a bullet. Applications to pull swelled to unheard of numbers. Even the lazy and insolent Milkman took his turns at the front. This lusty passel of frothing Zealots would not be denied. They motored towards The Attack Zone, anxious for the fight. And Jed Schneider sat like Ben Hur in his chariot, watching, waiting, plotting …and whispering.
The still, rolling countryside of Oglethorpe County rolled past like a silent movie. The pavement flew away underneath the wheels. The boards at the bridge creaked and groaned as wheels and cleats felt their way across. Only the Sun and the sky remained still, pressing the warm bright air down to earth. When The Attack Zone arrived, the aspirants were warm, but their blood was boiling.
The Zealots headed in the six-mile Wolfskin Road finish. The only major obstacle in The Zone is the nasty riser at the end. The finish line sits at the top. Plus, in order to make things even nastier, The CEO had placed a point sprint halfway up the climb, 200 meters from the finish line. When the whistle screamed, Drewdini wasted no time—he attacked straight away and seized a gap. He refused to yield. Then Fetty bridged, carrying two more across with him. The chase was on. I sat at the back praying no one would look at me. That group was pulled back. Henrickson jumped. The Blade went. The Yellow went. There was more jumping going on than the inside of a bag of microwave popcorn. Fetty and Schnieder hewed open a dangerous gap only two miles from the line, with Crowe barely hanging on by his bulging eyes. Mulkey and Rainman formed an alliance, a confederation of the morally bankrupt, and called the note due and brought back the delinquent duo.
With one mile to go, the Nalley-Lexus whisper crescendoed to a shout, then a roar. Heading down the last hill, The Lexurs lined it up. Then, The Canadian infiltrated the Nalley lead train. He was now set up to derail their train. Without warning, he suddenly veered off and headed to Canada, allowing Mineral Man to jump clear and fly to the first sprint like an escaped rhino. The Blade was hot on his wheels. Blade moved left, out of the saddle and flying up the steep grinder, and inched up to Mineral’s side. Mineral dug towards the earth with his nose pressed flat on his handlebars and his legs pumping in anger. He nipped The Blade at the sprint line by one fluid ounce. The Blade and Mineral went into a three-way tie for first place for The Red Jersey with Reynolds-Rap, all with 2 points. Both riders, on their bikes, were then sucked straight up into the sky as if by a vacuum and not seen again until the parking lot. Behind the two, The Kid Jon Murphy, had waited like a master poker player throwing down an ace as the last card played. Game over. The Kid came around Mineral and crushed the steep incline beneath his wheels. Behind, the riders scrabbled for leftovers. Todd Henrickson, showing impressive strength, powered up the rise for second. Drewdini, showing the attacking attitude of a true Zealot after a full day of pulling, blasted through for third. Crowe, saying something to Milkman as he passed him, lumbered across for fourth, with The Rainman pulling through for fifth. Close behind was Root Dog Johnson with a masterful ride finishing first for the Non Pros, 1s and 2s. Scott Hodge and Allen Hurd sped over for second and third respectively for the Non Pros.
After the 74-mile, three and ¾ hour adventure, The CEO bade The Zealots farewell. The press conference would be held after Saturday’s event, two days later.
The thermals continued to press down for the next two days. Saturday rolled around and so did the clouds, pressing and forcing the warm air even further down on The Zealots. The Lula Classic was on, the heat was high, and the competition was hot. So hot in fact, Nalley-Lexus inexplicitly backed out of the ride, each rider claiming to have either tennis elbow or an ingrown hair on his buttocks, or both. “ I have tennis elbow and an ingrown hair on my ass,” The One Who Cannot Be Named proudly proclaimed. Those putting the fear in them, and others, was: Gregarious Schisla, Tommy Klodzieski, Raleigh’s Rainman, Travis Hutchinson, Anthony McClain, The Pack Shouter, Steve 1-legged kiss Spencer, Iona and Erin Wynter and Winter, Geo Dowd, The Big Buck, Junior, Thad Dulen, Pres Nixon, The Legend, Bagget the Baguette, The Greenville Hammer Rae Harrison, Carl Weaver, Team Purdue, Lee bringin Showers, Richard Shell, The Spaniard Rhino Barnett, C-Daddy Arnholt, Ole Swivel Hips, Mr. People Soft Todd Fryburger, The Beaver’s brother Michael Mathers, John The 10th Muse, Clint Tomasino, and The Polish Cannonball Wojtek Wysocki. As we headed out it dawned on me that they actually had good reason to be skeered. I was too. I slipped to the back of the hundred or so who tapped out a tune with their feet down Prince Avenue. I slipped in right beside Big Jon, IcePic, The Blade and Fryburger at the back of the quarter-mile long pack.
I yammered away at the back like I was a garden clubber at a morning tea. The weather was warm, and I felt good. We passed The Pink Church on the way out, and I was still in the middle of my first story. I had just gotten to the good part. It is the part when a dozen women tell me how wonderful I am, and how shameless and disreputable the following persons are: Milkman, Morocco, Sevener, Crowe, The Canadian, Jeff Shirey, Bill Riecke, and especially Jack Cooney. They looked at one another and immediately bolted for the front. They reached the front of the group as it was turning onto the beloved Jefferson Riviera Road. The four front side mashers put their respective heads down, and began to pull and pull and pull. Then, others joined in the fun. The Canadian pulled a few miles at an amazing 73 mph. The Greenville Godfather Jason Leslie pulled. Spencer pulled. They all pulled. And boy did they ever.
The group headed up the escarpment guarding the landscape to the north. The group sped around Jefferson, flew across I85, sprinted to Gilsville, then pushed upwards at a painful pace to Lula. In Lula, the pack bent back east and glided down The Homer Highway to the only sprint of the day, Homer City Limits. The reins could not hold the horses, so they (the reins) were cut. Five miles from the line, the anxious group jockeyed and fought and bumped and grinded and moved in and out of holes opening and closing like a room full of revolving doors. When the whistle was blown, Ice exploded to the line with the Blade in tow. 200 meters from pay dirt, Ice moved aside and The Blade screamed for the line and won the sprint going away. I, along with a dozen others, was dropped on the run-in, but we were able to bridge back at the store. I tried to get in The Black Box at the stop, but Junior had already beat me to it.
The store stop was at the three-hour mark, and The final Attack Zone was only an hour away. The group fled down 98 towards Maysville, then turned due south to Commerce on Curvy-Swervy Road. The pack swerved, curved, twisted, climbed, bent, and descended on the 10 mile run to Commerce. Approaching Commerce, the pack crossed back into the comfort zone—the south side of I85. The Zealots were still flying, thighs hollering.
The peloton flew through Commerce, and hit the homestretch to The final Attack Zone. Today’s Zone was the infamous “Alto Attack Zone,” a dreaded 9.5-mile affair with several hummocks large enough to rent the pack into tortured shreds. The first bastard hill comes straight away, Killer Dog Climb. The Blade was the first to make a run for gold. He went clear over the top and set his sail towards Nowhere Road. Approaching the first of three turns 1.5 miles inside The Zone, the group was stretched into a long thin quivering line. Big Jon crossed to Blade. So did Drewdini. The game was on.
The riders at the front stretched the long line beyond its snapping point. The pack fissured behind like peanut brittle. As five leaders took the second turn on Seagraves Mill Road, Rainman attacked the break, the move of a dastardly Euro dog. It was four miles to Nowhere Road, then three more to the Promise Line. The Break flew, so did the chase, and so did Rainman. But the lack of cohesiveness doomed the break. They were caught on the last hill, the bilious uphill run to The Road to Nowhere, only four miles from the line. Here, Travis Hutchinson uncorked a bottle of kick-ass he had hidden in his jersey pocket, and up the hill he went. Behind, the cognoscenti of this Attack Zone scrabbled up the hill with all they could muster. This was it—the winning move.
As Hutch turned right onto Nowhere Road, only three undulating miles remained. Seven others bridged. This eight-man group had thirty seconds on the surely broken-spirited pack. As Hutch looked around, he saw The Blade, Pomegranate, G-Man Arnette, Drewdini, Ice, and even Crowe in this move. Incredibly though, Shooting Starr in Yellow had made the bridge and sat poised ready to run away with the Overall. The break pulled, then faltered. They rotated, then attacked. They split, then rejoined. They couldn’t mesh, they didn’t fit, it didn’t work. They were run down by a bloodthirsty pack only 1 km. from glory. It appeared to be over for the eight escapees.
But The Pettifogger attacked and opened a tenuous gap. The speed behind stayed high. Those in the back of the chase couldn’t move up. The chasers finally ran down Parks at 400 meters to go and wound it up. Shooting Starr, in a masterful show of skill and precision, exploded up, through, and out the middle of the knot of mad sprinters and appeared headed for the win. Then out of nowhere, Pic sprang on his left and pipped Starr at the line. IcePic took his second win in successive Saturdays and was glowing afterwards. Shooting Starr, with his double points, pulled “A Mineral Man” and now is threatening to run away with The WBL 2004. Iona Wynter, the Lion of Jamaica, finished first for the women, and second for the Non Pros, and showed just what she may do in Athens (Greece that is) come summertime.
As the pack rolled in from the religious experience on the road, it was noted that the 95 miles was done in 4.5 hours at an average speed of 21.5 mph, a WBL record. “What got into you fellas,” Rainman wondered afterwards. “ Not sure, but I love it,” Starr replied.
As the WBL heads deeper into January, Shooting Starr is in control, The Blade is in Red, and IcePic has done the double. Stay tuned for much more excitement.
After the Big-wig Seraph checked his move one last time, he smiled and said, “Checkmate.”
- IcePic +10
- Shooting Starr +8
- Crowe +6
- Everett Baker +4
- Blade +2
Non Pro, 1, 2:
- Starr +5
- Iona +3
- Hurd +1
- Iona Wynter +5
- Dani Dembrak +3
- Pro,1,2 +2
- Non Pro +3