The Winds of Rayle!
Oscar Mauricio Henao and his Columbian cartel throw down the gauntlet, chop off a few heads, and hammer Zealots into submission with the aid of a blustery and bilious wind. These are cruel days in the WBL. No "day off" by any means (as Carney promised). Story posted!
After 11 events: Total Miles: 1020! Great Gawd yall!
The Winds of Rayle
Columbian strongman Oscar Mauricio Henao of Team UCL played his cards to perfection and scored a resounding knockout win in the 15th round of the Jittery Joes Rayle Classique on 3 February 2007. For the first time during this illogical but temperate WBL season, cruel artic winds billowed in from the north and battered the Zealots all day long, leaving most with legs like swollen balloons zapped of any electric charge (a.k.a. fried) by the time the final Attack Zone came rolling round the bend. The pack spent the entire 5 hour ride (100 miles!) lying low in the drops, knifing through the cold winds, leaning shoulder first into the bilious busters at times, horizontal tears streaming from their eyes, hoping to find a little shelter in the leeward side of the line. There was none. After 4 hours of constant pounding by a howling bitch of a wind, the grupetto finally arrived on the far side of the dreaded Gene Dixon Attack Zone. As the pack turned west to enter the 9 mile Zone, they were once again buffeted by a billowing buster trying to blow them backwards. This was another cruel day in the WBL, another day in Paradise.
When the pack turned into the final 9 mile assault box, the tempestuous wind tempered all thoughts of glory—it caused one to pause and ponder the arduous task involved in an early breakaway attempt. To launch an attack on the far side of the Attack Zone would be like trying to row a small dinghy across the Northern Atlantic during a perfect storm, with only 1 oar. As usual, there was a sprint half way across the Zone and 2 Big Head Todd tickets were on the line, and the Zealots are renowned wanderlusters. So, after 15 seconds of ponderation, Jered Gutcheck Gruber weighed the odds, determined there was a distant glimmer of hope, and stormed down the road, headed off into the wild blue yonder. It made me think of those intrepid souls who boarded the Kon-Tiki and shoved off into the ocean blue. Of course, some might call them poor, dumb, purblind bastards, but not me, I'd call them Zealots. Gutcheck was followed quickly by Columbian henchman Henao. After another 2 seconds of cerebration, Big Jon Atkins said what the hale and cast off too. He was joined by the ever aggressive Serbian hit man Prokic Predrag; and then there were 4. The group behind stared in a glaze of perplexed wonderment as the 4 escapees began their rotation and crept away like a lazy slug.
Even though the wind was making the sledding rough for the 4 up the road, when the lead crawled out to 15 dubious seconds, Slim Tim Henry, searching desperately for his 3rd lifetime win in the WBL, went to the head of the chasing bunch and flipped the switch to cruise control. Slim, Marky-Mark Anderson and Junior Southerland set tempo at the front of the lusty herd as they cruised down the first hill in the Zone in an effort to keep the forward 4 within optical range. As the chase pack flew down the first hill and then stood and stomped up the next hump, it was comforting to see how easily the 4 off the front were brought back into the fold. As both groups crested the first of six bitter inclines in this Attack Zone, the lead foursome’s gap was back down to 5 seconds.
However, on the next downhill, the 4 escapees pushed their gap back to 15 seconds as they refused to yield and raged down the hill, snot trailing out of their noses and spinning backwards like a boomerang. Bafflement, but not panic, set in behind as the pack watched the escapees sail away again with their jackets rippling in the breeze like sheets on a clothesline. The ease with which the big pack reeled in the little group on the first hill lead the chasers to believe they’d all be back together in the very near future, like a new friend one meets in jail.
As if lending support to a chrono-sophist’s abstruse and nonsensical theory that Time travels in a circle, the action on the first hill repeated itself on the second. On the uphill tilt of the second hill, the 4 off the front once again came backwards even though they were pedaling forwards. They ended up within close proximity of the chasing herd behind—close enough, almost, to reach out and touch. But only a fool confuses the repetition of History with the repetition of Time, and over the top, things shook out a little differently on the second loop of the Ferris wheel: Several ambitious souls tried to jump and join the forward four as they came into radar range. As a result, there were several violent, brain numbing, leg sizzling surges towards the top of the slope. The pack was single file and the Zealots were forced to dig-dig-dig to stay afloat—there were no life vests nor life boats on this ship of fools. (Many also recognized that this would be a crucial point in the upcoming ride report.) Only Travis Hagner, who exploded across with the precision timing of a sniper, was able to cover the entire 100 meter patch of blacktop and connect with the leaders. (Unfortunately, it was here in the road as well as the narrative that I was unceremoniously dropped. I lost my way and ended up riding 168 miles in 11 hours. WBL Disclaimer: I have to rely on Crowe for the details of the remainder of the Ride Report. The WBL will not therefore vouchsafe its veracity. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the WBL, its employees, agents or assigns. Neither are the opinions expressed herein necessarily mine.)
The chasers were well aware at this point that the lights could go out in an instant. On blustery days like these, the desire can drain out of a chase without warning, like blood out of a bag. If one was caught with one’s pants down and with one’s finger shoved up one’s backside portal, the curtains could unexpectedly drop—show over! If one is left behind on the wrong side of the split, bridging across after a certain point is not an option—the wind is too severe. On windy days, the point of no return comes rather quickly, and a tired body can convince one to stall, to wait…until it’s too late. At this point, Hobson leaves only one choice: Pedal quietly, wallow in self pity, and watch for several minutes as the winning group cruises away with the win. Curse the Fates for making You the strongest One in the group, the One always marked, the One always followed. Mark it down in the Training Log as a “Win.” It would have been.
When Hagner scorched across the gap, a nervous tension gripped the pack. Hammering down the second hill and approaching the third, the leading quintuplet’s gap jettisoned back up to 15 seconds. Behind, the pack continued to watch the drama unfold before them. Electric shivers buzzed through the group (maybe it was the arctic air?), but the chasing pack was still not in panic mode. There was still (1) an important fact to consider which (2) raised a curious question: (1.) Important fact: Big Head Todd tickets went to the winner of the mid-Zone sprint line which was painted in the road at the top of the third hill, Mini-Monster. (2.) Curious question raised: Would the breakaway continue to work together or would they implode over the top, each seeking his own fame and fortune? The pack behind was banking on the general rottenness of mankind, assuming that History, not Time, would repeat itself. As Flann O'brien said: "Rottenness is universal."
They were right! Jered Gutcheck Gruber, a firmly established heathen, unleashed a violent attack as the breakaway hit the lower slopes of the 90 second climb. The leading 5 cleaved asunder, like the Red Sea. Over the top Predrag ran down Gutcheck and sprinted ahead to win the sprint, the 2 tickets, and the 5 points. He was followed closely by Haneo, and the two continued afterwards to rippitty-rip down the hill like they'd been shot out of a slingshot. Hagner, Gruber and Big John hammered like scalded dogs trying to rejoin the flying Serb and his Columbian henchman as they flew down the backside of the Mini-Monster. The leaders again began to lengthen the black space between themselves and the chase.
Big Head Sprint:
- Prokic Predrag: 5 pts.
- Henao: 4
- Hagner: 3
- Gutcheck: 2
- Big John: 1
The next hill, the fourth in this rippled Attack Zone, is a long, 1 mile uphill drag straight into the wind. The combined effect of the wind and the interminable grade of the hill usually knock the spirit right out of a break, like a knee in the gut. The hill looks like it will never end. A rider can see it climbing ahead, winding upwards in a slow arc, and continuing to veer out of sight into the treetops. Rabid chasers can run a down a floundering group on this hill.
Riders were trying to tear away off the front on this hill, and although none succeeded in slipping free from the noose, they did manage to capture the break with an old fashioned blitzkrieg up the hill. The wind was still howling and those remaining in this group were in “serious-suffer mode” at this point. After all, suffering is serious business. Taking the right hand turn on Beaverdamn Road with only 3 miles to go, 25 were still in contention for the day’s honorarium. The others were lost at sea and there was not even time to toss them a life vest, much less a wreath—a WBL win is much higher priority than blessing the souls of the damned.
The attacks continued for the last 3 miles like a cannonade of rifle shots. Predrag, Markey-Mark, Slim Tim, Blackheart, Brady Rogers, E. Murphy, Bibens and Big Jon all gave it a go, banging away off the front with a death scowl wrenched onto their faces. It was helter-skelter in the WBL, a knock down-drag out, an old fashioned bar room brawl with whiskey, women and broken chairs.
Topping the Mur de Winterville and taking the final right hand turn onto Melton Road with only 1.5 miles to go, the group was stretched thin with a few shanks of light shining through the empty spaces. Anderson and Predrag again opened up a 4 second gap, but the chasers behind were raging. They were pummeled and pounded by the wind. They were caught and off shot others: Boom, Bam, Bang! But the wind was so severe that remaining off the front for more than 5 revolutions of the pedals required the effort of 3 yeoman, 2 dirt farmers, and a partridge in a pear tree. The last mile to the line was a revolving door of attacks. An attacker would surge ahead and appear to be heading for a win, only to have the wind flatten the attacker and leave him gasping for air and pedaling squares.
Up the last 200 meters Eric Murphy jumped hard, but Haneo charged like a bull, kicked with a vengeance, and captured his first WBL victory on his first WBL ride, a spectacular feat for anyone. Haneo chiseled his name into the Record book on a permanent basis. Hats off to Haneo and his Columbian cartel for a truly spectacular day: Salud!
- Oscar Mauricio Haneo: 10 pts.
- Eric Moondog Murphy: 8
- Travis Hagner the Horrible: 6
- Big Jon Atkins: 4
- Gutcheck Gruber: 2
In the week leading up to Rayle, Carney promised a bit of R and R for his beloved Zealots after the trials and tribulations they endured on Alto. Carney is a liar. I had completely forgotten that although Rayle is advertised as the “flattest of the WBL rides” (truthful statement), nowhere does the WBL claim it is the “easiest.” The WBL hierarchy simply allowed me to assume it was a simple jaunt. Most people equate flat with easy, a fatal mistake in some cases, as any Belgian who has raced across the flat fields of Liege will tell you—the wind will hammer one into the ground. The winds of Rayle are historically the most severe of the year. The fact that the pack is heading straight into the wind for the final 3 hours is of no small consequence, and makes Rayle, though flat, one of the tougher events year in and year out. History once again repeated itself in ’07. However, Time did not.
With 2 weeks to go, the length of the rides begins to slide back down the scale. Cleve the Blackheart has the Overall all sewn up, but since the top 5 Overall win lusty prizes, the battle is still raging for the remaining podium spots. Stay tuned for more action from the cold and bitter roads of the WBL.
The Humble Chronicler