Race Report: 2016 Carl Dolan Cat 5 Circuit Race
Temperatures lingered around freezing as a bloated field of 61 started rolling. Unfortunately, the majority of the race was pretty dull with no one willing to take any big risks to break up the rolling school of fish and not enough topographical challenges to stretch things out. Even teams that had big numbers played it conservatively, which contributed to an uneventful first eight laps. If Paris-Roubaix is called “The Hell of the North”, the Carl Dolan Cat 5 should be known as “The Purgatory of the Mid-Atlantic”. The most remarkable thing for Frank and I, up to the last lap, was the ongoing task of trying to stay in the top quarter of the race. Which was a bit of a challenge as the peleton was normally super dense at four or five riders wide.
The group’s collective deli number was finally called in the last lap. Frank took matters into his own hands spurring things on at the front as we started the final lap. He put in a hard effort to try to string things out. But low and behold, no other team was looking to keep spurring things on. We concluded that the two of us probably would not be able to breakaway ourselves, so we were reabsorbed by the peleton and the pace went back to lax.
Going into the final turn, the anxiety ratcheted up. I jumped on Frank’s wheel as he was positioning himself smartly on the far left with a few guys in front of us. Then to my left… JAB JAB! A rider elbowed me to get into Frank’s wake. Considering how thick the peleton was at this point, an overreaction on my part would have been bad news for a lot of riders. Luckily, I was still coming off a post-vacation chill, so I absorbed the elbow, stayed stable and just kept chugging along. I later found out I finished ahead of “Senor JAB JAB”; karma baby!
Frank came into the final climb maintaining a strong but steady pace, he passed a few guys and a few were able to sneak by. In the end, the good doctor was able to nab 6th place. Due to “Senor JAB JAB”, I had been pushed back a row or two, from where I would have been, meaning there were about 20 or 25 guys ahead of me as I swung wide left into the final climb. I went hard and was able to pass around 10 riders and narrowly avoid the wipeout of a rider who stood up to climb and appeared to tempt gravity a bit too much as he swung wildly. As I went by him to the left, I heard the sound 12 cans make when they break out of a soggy cardboard beer container. CLANG (roll) CLANG! In the end, I was able to navigate to 12th place.
Frank and I were pretty happy with our results in hindsight. We both thought we would have benefited from a harder pace or some steeper gradients, but in the end, were mostly just happy to avoid any spills an overly thick, overly anxious peleton.