Pathways of Pain
Pathways of Pain (# 8)
Slim Tim Henry scorched across a windswept, frozen wasteland like bad news and scored a stunning solo victory as he pounded all pretenders into submission on the 17 January 2009 System Jake Antarctic Adventure. Slim Tim made a ballsy bid for glory four miles from paydirt and held off a ravenous, bloodthirsty chase with a scintillating escape. With a dangerous break of Attack Zone aficionados beginning to falter halfway into the Kill Box, Slim slung his sword and shield over his shoulder and headed out into the icy outback—he would slay the dragon himself. He refused to yield to a buffeting wind, and kept his head down and hammered. The chase behind the Slimmer yo-yoed back and forth, with none of the heavyweights willing, or able, to reel in the slack when the group moved within striking distance. With 1 mile to go, Slim drove the nail into the pack’s neck as he plastered his pedals with a wicked kick to the line. Hope faded to a small blip on the horizon as Slim stomped away; he knocked the impetus right out of the chase. Slim had time to zip up his jersey and give his yellow-stained teeth a quick brush with his finger. Even after saluting the bulging crowd of over ten thousand at the finish, he crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of a devastated Nick G. Reistad. After his spectacular run to glory, Las Vegas bookies moved the Slimmer into the favored slot for the upcoming Alto World Cup. Now, he would ride with a bullseye on his back.
The uncharitable cold snap that bludgeoned the Deep South before last week’s WBL misadventure rattled the bones of the Zealots; it shook them to the core of their baleful beings. Lows dipped into the teens, causing many stalwart pedal-bangers to fall prey to the shiver-me-trembles, a physical condition whose symptoms often include the wobble-knocks, the shaky-puddin, the stutter-step, and the unanswered cell phone. During the week, the wind bit with such ferocious fangs that it cut through my clothes and sliced through my skin like razor wire. It knocked the breath out of me, like a sledgehammer to the chest. The intolerable temps threatened to topple the very bastion of my being. The idea of riding a bike across frozen goat fields in 25 degree air now sounded like a foolhardy idea. Perhaps I should stay home and decorate the house instead, I thought. Looking back now, it’s terrifying to see how easy the idiotic idea slipped through my mental filters and twanged my harpsichord. The path of no resistance was music to my ears.
The arctic blast that streamlined into town provided ample fodder for the philosophy that espouses the sedentary lifestyle: Fat Cat Syndrome. Fat Cats love to take it easy, often. Fat Cats are those who like their tracks greased, their paths well trod, and all the rough edges burnished to a fine sheen. Fat Cats take two and leave none. The last thing a Fat Cat will do is pedal-stomp in a miserable chill. Understand, the term Fat Cat has nothing to do with a person’s ponderosity, girth, circumference, or avoirdupois. Hale, have you seen my big arse lately? Call me a phool, but don’t call me a Fat Cat. Fat Cat is a state of mind; it’s a name brand, it’s a mode of living, and it does not discriminate. All that is required is a weak-willed individual, a false sense of bravura, and a pocketful of cash; then brother, watch that fish run. There are lean and slender folk who suffer from Fat Cat Syndrome, just as there are heavyweight pedal-bangers who choose to fistfight instead. These pedaling pugilists are the ones who’d rather hack their way through the day with a machete than ride first class in a railcar. These are the ones we welcome as Zealots, regardless of one’s weight. How do you think Crowe made the club?
And these were the gritty, diehard, pedal-banging Zealots who signed in on this midwinter’s day in Athens when temperatures plunged to 1000 degrees below zero. To even show up attired in the multilayered battle gear required for this WBL sortie into a wilderness of stifling cold required nerves of steel, a puny black heart, and thirty-seven layers of wool. The expected high was only 39 degrees, and at sign-in the mercury was hovering in the high 20’s. The only Zealots who dared think about pedal-pounding in this inclement clime were those black hearted mystics who realized that the quickest path to a state of bliss is to crawl through the eyehole of pain: the Via Dolorosa isn’t lined with olive branches, it’s splattered with blood.
Some of those rough and rowdy, renegade-rebel Zealots who hoped to squeeze their large fundament through the eye of this needle were Jason Chapman, Joseph Collins, Doug Gilfillan, Bill Harper, Keir Plaice, and Oliver Quinn, all hard men with hard arses. And Yellow jersey holder Rebecca Larson, along with Erin Winter, and Catherine Peacock showed that the gals are hardarses too. As I watched them sign their names to the list of phools, I knew that not all would make it back home in one piece. Tears welled up in my rims—we would lose their monthly dues. I shuddered to think I might not be able to afford my precious imports—I can never imbibe domestics again. Ah well, c’est la vie. Better them than me. I’m a figurehead in demand. I’m utterly irreplaceable. I only hope that someone sends word to my wife.
Before parting, but after prayers (Pray, ride two abreast or we may break ye neck. Pray, don’t breach the yellow line or we may malign ye. Pray, send cash.), Carney announced that he would clip 1 hour off the total ride time, from 4 hours down to 3. “Better to lose a few appendages to frostbite rather than kill them all off at once,” he surmised. “There’s always monthly dues to consider. Plus, leaving my charges out for over 4 hours in this intemperate, Arctic atmosphere might be considered gross neglect by some, especially if I’m at home drinking sangria and playing Guitar Hero on my brand new Wee, pretending I’m Flea, and wearing nothing but a swinging sock.” Carney grinned and added, “C’est la vie; that’s why they sign a disclaimer.” Carney never allows the insignificant concerns of the masses to interfere with passing the plate, hobnobbing with the glitterati, drinking like a fish, or sleeping until noon. “It’s a labor of love,” he says. Carney is a man of principle. That’s why he’s loved and adored by all. That’s also why there have been three coups during his tenure at the top.
The pack of 40 or so steel-willed Zealots cruised out Nowhere Road in the brutal cold. The sun was blazing in a sky-a-blue and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen, but the cold was raw and crept into my innards. It forced Billy Boy Bray to push the tempo at the front. “Tamp down the tempest,” he shouted and roared away at the front. Pedaling hard was our only sliver of hope.
And as the pack cruised out the Nowhere Road, a miracle occurred—the rays of the sun began to thaw the Zealots. Warmth began to spread out from my center. By the top of Nowhere Road only 30 minutes into the affair, we were warm. It was the Miracle on Nowhere Road. It was 32 degrees outside and I was warm and comfortable. We were all astounded. We were all happy. We were mostly happy that we were warm. We were all astounded that we were happy because we were warm. We were giddy with glee. We were like death row inmates granted a temporary stay at the last moment. We knew it would ultimately end in tragedy, but for now, the comedy continued.
The pack cruised north the first hour, enjoying the internal warming trend the whole way. After an hour the pack turned and put the wind at its back. They were cruising comfortably, side-by-side, scudding down the road with the greatest of ease. The rhythm of the group gelled, the tempo was pitch-perfect, the sun kept warming our souls, and we were moving down the roadway as one machine. When the temperature soared to 35 degrees, it felt like we were roasting in an oven. My harpsichord was twanging away. Of course, there was the climber on top of Everest who thought that he was sitting on a raft with his toes in the ocean. It’s curious how a lack of oxygen can interfere with things.
After roving about the countryside for a couple of hours, Carney turned the group of wanderlusters and headed for home. But first they’d take a quick detour through a cantankerous killbox, the day’s 6.5 mile abominable Attack Zone named in honor of the city of Colbert’s favorite son: Kenny’s Killbox.
When the Attack Zone opened there was a lull on the long incline up Kenny Rogers Hill. Young climbing abecedarian Parker Smith set tempo at the front and those behind seemed to content to let him dance. But halfway up the huge hummock Nick Housley fired the first salvo and rocketed away. He poured everything into his attack and opened up a 50 meter gap and kept going. Slim Tim followed; then Reistad, Gianinni, and Bruno Langlois. Crowe latched on as the group crested the hill and turned right. The group fell into formation and soft pedaled away. Hunter Garrison and and Shay Lindner bridged. These seven had a twenty second gap. They appeared to be moving away.
But a mutiny was occurring within the lead group. Led by an obdurate Crowe, a couple of intransigents in the escape refused to pull. Crowe played possum at the back, pretending to hurt like a redheaded stepson who’d been beat with a baseball bat. It was masterful bit of acting as he couldn’t be distinguished from an actual redheaded stepson who’d been beat a baseball bat. He looked to be in plenty of pain. After a mile of freedom, the group fluttered and floundered. The protagonists would surge one second and mushroom the next. Slim Tim reached down into his bag of tricks and pulled out a rabbit—with 4 miles to go he pedaled away. The group behind was captured.
But he didn’t go far—he was right there, dangling off the front. The small group behind wasn’t even bothered, at first. The chase group grew as more and more latched on. Eventually the group swelled to twenty, the remainder scattered over the county like locusts in a windstorm. Slim pushed out to a 15 second lead. Bruno attacked to go across; Reistad launched; Housley tried; and Lindner; Joél Dion Poitas gave it a go. The group behind splintered several times and regrouped later after violent attacks could not rip clear. The favorites knew that they had to get over to Slim in the next move, and it had now dawned on all that one could not cross this wide gap alone. And the whole while Slim Tim neither turned to look back nor waited for reinforcements. Instead, he put his head down and hammered away. Slim Tim left his blood on the tracks.
Climbing the Mur de Winterville and taking the final right hand turn onto Melton Road 1 mile from the line, the Slimmer continued to pound away. He never let up; he never relaxed. Taking the final right hand turn, the pack hesitated: Curtains. It was lights out and they knew it. Slim disappeared from sight as he plunged down the final drop before the gradual 1 kilometer uphill drag to the line.
With 1 kilometer to go, strongman Thomas Brown launched a massive attack. Brown could see Slim digging off the front. Was it possible? Brown, proving he has earned his wings, would go down trying. He tore into his bike with all the gusto and all the firepower he could muster. Reistad surged. Crowe sat on him like a blood-sucking leech. Reistad connected and flew by a tiring Brown with Crowe in tow. Reistad flicked Crowe but could not close the large swath of empty space to the Slimmer. Slim Tim crossed the line with change to spare for his 3rd WBL lifetime win. Once again, Gnucklehead pounded his bars crossing the line—his lady was threatening to leave unless he brought home the bacon. Crowe was pulled across in 3rd, Canada’s Joél Dion Poitas in 4th, and Steven Leotis with an exceptional ride for 5th. John Best rounded at the top 3 for the non-pro riders. On the ladies’ side of the ledger, Larson and Winter ended up in a dead draw after a 500 meter drag race up the final runway. Afterwards, it was smiles and hugs all the way around; especially after Carney doled out an extra point for everyone just for signing in. Say what you will, the man is top flight. We would also like to report that the WBL neither confirms nor denies that Carney was spotted leaving G. Reistad’s humble abode late that evening with an empty package of bacon. Gnucklehead is our friend, sort of.
- Slim Tim Henry 10 pts
- Reistad 8 pts.
- Crowe 6 pts
- Joel Poitas 4 pts.
- Stephen Leotis 2 pts.
- R. Larson (Tie) 4 pts.
- E. Winter 4 pts.
Vets, Cat 3 , 4, 5
- Crowe 5 pts
- S. Leotis 3 pts.
- J. Best 1 pt.
Overall (Top 37):
- 37 pts: Crowe
- 32: R. Larson
- 27: Reistad
- 26: E. Winter
- 24: P. Smith
- 22: M. Niang
- 21: B. Bray, R. Giannini, L. Slote, R. Williams, Slim Henry
- 20: H. Garrison
- 19: J. Best, M. Buechel, J. Murphy, M. Patton, J. Shirey, M. Stone
- 18: N. Jones, D. Mealor, T. Stone
- 17: D. Larson, R. Nelson
- 16: A. McDonald, S. Rafal, M. Rice
- 15: J. Collins, F. Crumley
- 15: S. Leotis, N. Arroyo, I. Rodriguez, Sev, V. Smith, A. Smola
- 13: S. Eisenhauer, D. Gilfillen, R. Simpson