The suffering of human beings has always attracted a crowd: Rome’s decrepit Coliseum, the gothic Tower of London, the bloody Bastille. The 80-mile, 4 hour Dave Martin Royston Classic on 15 January 2005 was no exception. Over 100 Zealots signed in, and an estimated 100,000 curious voyeurs lined the 7-mile Attack Zone at the end of the day hoping to feel the tingle of pleasure by witnessing the torture of others. They wouldn’t be disappointed.

In the final 7-mile Zone, the hard charging duo of Jon the Kid Murphy and the newest bean in town, Tim Beantown Johnson, were the ones swinging the big axes as they unleashed a raging maelstrom of unbridled angst and aggression. Their poor pedals bore the immediate brunt of their angry outburst as they stomped away into the wild blue yonder. Relief would not come for anyone until long after the finish line was crossed, and the imbedded prongs of three-fingered forks were plucked free from a teary-eyed group of tattered Zealots.

The two opportunistic freaks of the bigring, Murphy and Johnson, leapt away from the bunch on Kenny Roger’s Hill before the Attack Whistle had even completed the decrescendo of its melodious warble. Behind the two escapees, the alarm bells rang out like a chorus of squealing little pigs. The little pigs would continue squealing for the next 7 miles. Although the furious chase behind would reach speeds topping 35 miles per hour, the two frontrunners refused to yield; they kept the accelerator pressed to the floorboard, rotating efficiently and sharing the load equally. At the line, the daring duo had five seconds to spare on a closing, but shell-shocked peloton. Five minutes after the photo finish, Murphy was declared the victor by less than half a centipede’s toenail. The splattered remnants that once formed a pack looked like a ravaged band of confederate soldiers trudging towards Appomattox, guns dragging in the mud, after three months of starving in the mountains. For these gritty Zealots, like our gaunt and rawboned forefathers, the white flag of capitulation did not come easy; they had put up one hell off a fight.

A most horrid, but powerful, contingent of truculent pedal bashers arrived to contest Dave Martin’s event. The barn door had swung wide open, and the Pros, 1’s and 2’s could finally sprint. Big money glory seekers and camera-friendly podium shakers and bakers arrived by the truckloads from all corners of the southern cycling kingdom as well as the dark regions that lie beyond. Upon spying the assortment of heavy-hitters on hand, a few riders, when driving by, just kept on going. The Nalley-Lexurs were on hand with its full lineup of heavy hitters: Boss Lexur Jed Schneider, T. Bass, Reid Peacock, Jon Matey, Rob Gable and even the stringbean David Judas Guttenplan were present vying for victory. Jittery Joes brought all it would need: Beantown himself and a Canadian (yes, another one) named Bruno Langlois. Several Krystal men made the trek from Tennessee with Murphy: Todd No Nickname Henrickson, Hoyt Big Toes Halverson and Robert Vegas Foster. The two turncoats from Atlanta, Big Jon and the Blade, recruited a Trinidadian scud missile named Emile Abraham to help them with their winning methodologies. But Emile had stratagems of his own. Tres Locos were making the scene: birthday boy Junior the Punk, the Whistler and the relentless Jered Gutcheck Gruber claimed they held “no grudges” against their “former friend” Judas. Auburn Alabama had flown over its prodigal son, the one and only Mr. Honey-baked ham himself, Joe Eldridge, 220 pounds of love and honey baked ham. Yellow jersey holder Mayola-Pic was carried to sign in by her powerful slave Ice. People Soft made the scene with the dynamic duo of the Pettifogger Clay Parks and his better two-thirds, I. Wynter. The John Deeres, represented by the one and only Shireymania, made the start list. Greenville was well represented by its two hitmen Steve Sperry and Jason Leslie. The Seedy Pomegranate, stage victor from two weeks past, made a house call. Even the Old Man Phil Rockytop Bonfiglio hobbled over for this raucous, rebellious day in the saddle. There were so many rapid-fire tampers in the mix, the stew was simmering before the pack even left the parking lot.

Today’s eponymous ride to Royston was slated to carve a serrated arc through the distant northern hills of Royston. The wind, in a puzzling about-face, was blowing from the northeast and was billowing with the ferocity of a Bourbon Street evangelist. If the long interminable stretches driving headlong into the wind didn’t crack you on the way up, the sharp, unreasonable pitch of several hills on the way back surely would. Then, right about the time you would start to shed your parched and cracked skin, you’d enter the dreaded Attack Zone. When handed the course profile before the ride, all Turbo Gentry could say was: “Shazaam!” After the pack was reminded to ride two abreast at all times, and respect the yellow line in all sprints, the vainglorious group of prima donnas and glory pandering fools clipped in, checked themselves one last time in the large plate glass window of Sunshine Cycles, and turned their mind’s eye to Royston and the Attack Zone beyond that was strewn over the roadway beyond like an uncoiled noose dropped clumsily from the rafters. Was murder on someone’s mind?

Over the years, each pack of Saturday Zealots on a WBL event has meshed into itself and morphed into an animal with its own mentality: sometimes a tame little mouse, sometimes a clucking chicken, but other times a two-headed mongrel. No two groups have ever been identical. And like breeding, no one can be certain what results various different mixtures will yield. The final solution that resulted from the mix of riders on this particular day in downtown Athens was an enfant terrible of the two-headed mongrel variety. If you couldn’t perceive this cold hard fact by looking around at the stoic faces at the start, you would surely know as soon as the pack rounded the first corner, only three feet into the ride. That’s when Doc Moye dove to the front, put his head down, and starting to tamp out a fast-paced number on his pedals: standing, stomping and skimmering over the hills; tucking, bending and snapping his pedals in perfect circles as he skittered down the other side. The pack sped out the Nowhere Road behind the impetus of Doc Moye’s thighs and his cold, steely heart. Eyebrows furrowed into knotty ridges, average speeds were quickly gauged with a click of thumbs, silent questions knocked about on the inside of noisy skulls; the group was only 5 miles out of the Classic City; and Doc Moye was at the front, flailing away, with no end in sight. Would there be no peace?

The answer was “No, there would be no peace, for the rest of the day.” Doc Moye continued motoring at the front for the next thirty minutes, pulling all the way to, and past, the Sanford Community at the top of Nowhere Road. He asked for, nor accepted, any help from anyone. He set the tone and the tempo for rest the day. After Doc pulled to the side, Greg Somerville, Henrickson, Murphy, Gable, Schneider, Gruber, Sperry, Matey, Edge and Peacock all just kept the ball rolling; a sag wagon on the tail end allowed the tempo to remain fluid, the pace comfortably quick, and the sprits soaring high, even though the pack was greeted face first by a frosty, but sun drenched headwind.

(The Sag Wagon driver is “Little Turbo,” but you may call him: “Mr. Little Turbo.” Please introduce yourself to Mr. Little Turbo, and please drop $100 (or less) in his tip jar, lest he might not see yo sorry arse groveling and grimacing on the side of the road, hand flapping in the air like a shot turkey trying to fly away.)

The Zealots continued their forward assault through the arteries of the northern hills, gliding along at a 19 mile per hour clip as if sliding along train tracks on polished steel rails. After traversing the polished rails of Jot-em-Down Road and splitting the densely wooded hills of southern Franklin County, the group approached Royston, and the first Sprint Attack Zone of the year, the Royston City Limit sign. 3 miles out, the Whistler warbled. Tim Johnson hit, and then split, the bottom of the Mur de Royston with the same old hatred that Brutus hit, and split Cesar, with his butcher knife. It was Johnson’s maiden voyage on this particular double-humped mur. Ben Bryant looked up the road and seeing Beantown riding away cried, “Et tu Beantown!” Then he died. (Reid Peacock, upon hearing of Bryant’s demise, threw himself onto the grassy slopes of the Mur, presenting irrefragable evidence the two had been lovers.)

Johnson crested the first 45-second, stand-and-stomp mur with a 5 second gap. Behind, the pack was stretched into a taut line, like a rubber band pulled past its snapping point. But when Johnson crested the first small mountain, and then saw another beast standing in his path, all he could say was: “Shazaam!” Scott Edge and the swarthy Spaniard himself, Rhino Barnett, ran down Johnson as the penultimate climb began. The Spaniard buzzed along up the hill as if a dozen yellow jackets were swarming in his pants. As the group crested the second Category 1 Hill-Climb, a group of 16 was clear, and pulling further away. During the two-mile run to the line, the fever-pitch of the pace was high. Halverson, then Drewdini, headed took flyers. The reaction behind was immediate and swift. As the roiling and moiling group romped and rolled to the line, Junior jumped over the last little riser only 300 meters out. Junior blasted to the city limits sign out of the saddle, hands tugging on the drops, elbows cranking circles. Only the Argus-eyed Murphy and the lighting-quick Torpedo could latch on to the invisible tear in the air Junior had left behind. The Kid and the Torpedo passed Junior and pulled side-by-side, each trying to punch holes in the air with the tops of his knees, each looking sideways and down at the other’s front wheel, each praying for the line to come. In the end, a toothy Torpedo crossed first.

At the store stop in Royston the shepherds gathered all the lost sheep (well, most of them), and after gorging on snacks from the health food section of Circle K, the well nourished and much loved Zealots hit the ground running and headed for home. There was only one small obstacle: a 7-mile sprint across a stormy sea teeming with hungry sharks.

The Zealots set the winds and the Circular K to their backs and received their reward. The propitious 20 mile-per-hour winds increased the pack’s tempo to a blistering 43 miles-per-hour for a solid hour on the return trip. The amazing average speed was aided by a loss of an additional 250 feet in elevation over the next twenty miles, as well as dozens of pairs of legs that are accustomed to producing dangerous amounts of lactic acid…in other people’s legs. Approaching the Attack Zone at the 3-hour mark in the ride, the route planners tossed in 4 back-to-back thigh-screamers (nasty, irascible climbs) in order to drain from the riders’ legs any nectar that might somehow have squeezed through. The plan worked. Again. Fool me once… Damn… Shame on me.

After the pack split through and out of the thin seams of Colbert, the Attack whistle warbled its mellifluous tune. (Afterwards, the Whistler lodged a complaint: he alleged the Attack by the two instigators pulled attention away from his whistling. He was incensed. He claimed he had spent hours developing a long, upward sloping trill, tailing off, then falling, slow at first, “followed by a rapid decrescendo as if a huge clumsy bird were falling from the sky.” Board members pondered moving whistle privileges to another. They thought, perhaps, the shrill whistle had damaged his eardrums.) While Board members chewed the cud, Jonhson was riding away up Kenny Rogers Hill, with Murphy bridging behind. This move looked planned. Even the purblind Canadians said, “That move looked planned.”

But the best-laid plans are those you can do nothing about, even when the blueprints are spread out on the table in front of you. Such was the case this day. The Zealots left behind at the bottom of the hill all knew you couldn’t let these two freaks just ride away, two veterans of the Tour of Georgia no doubt; they (the remaindermen) were simply powerless to prevent it. All they could do was watch, and gasp for bigger mouthfuls of air. You see, it is one thing to know which move to be in; it is quite another to be the one up the road.

The two motivated escapers quickly gained 10 seconds after1 mile, which pushed out to 15 seconds after 2 miles, between turns 2 and 3. Halfway to turn 3, the two frontrunners appeared to slow on a small, but deep riser out of Deceptive Ravine. The chase behind had not faltered. Schneider and Big Jon Atkins and Gutcheck and Pomegranate fired away at the front on all cylinders in an all out effort to prevent the two potential winners from reaching their glorious destinies. The front chase group was down to 25, with mates falling overboard and out the back on every turn of the wheel…or the screw. And the screws were turning and turning and turning and tightening. With 3 miles to go, taking the third (out of 4) right hand turn onto Smithonia Road, the lead sat at 10 dubious seconds.

Approaching the Mur de Winterville, the two young veterans put their heads down and set both shoulders against the wheel. They poured heart, body, mind and soul into their last two pulls. Although the temperature averaged a cool 51 degrees on the day, the two lost a combined total of 26.6 kilos of sweat in the last 1.5 miles. Approaching the line, The Kid showed why he is a master poker player: he offered Beantown “ a burrito” for the win. Beantown took the bait. He loves burritos. When Beantown saw the prize box afterwards, he knew he’d been had. All he did was scratch his chin, look up at the sky, shake his head and say: “Shazaam!”  The Blade took the field sprint behind from a ravaged front group that dotted the last kilometer of the roadway like discarded cigarette butts. The Spaniard, proving he should be watched in the future, was chomping right at his heels. The Edge soloed across for fifth and the remainder of the field wandered in over the next two days. When the WBL timekeepers announced the average speed at the end of the day was 20 miles per hour, they looked at each other and nodded without speaking. Then they began scribbling like mad in a little black book. Centuries later, when scholars would unearth the mysterious, but forgotten, little black books, they would read the one-word entry that had been penned over and over again: “Shazaam!”


(The WBL)