I signed up for a ride called the Triple Bypass back in January. I’d heard about this ride for years; it’s been around for 26 of them! It’s a 120 mile ride over three Colorado mountain passes, with 10,000 feet of elevation gain. And for those who think that distance and elevation gain are simply not enough, there is the Double Triple Bypass option where you turn around and ride back to where you started the next day.
I had plans to pre-ride all the passes, but unfortunately, time got away from me and before I knew it, the ride was here. I went into the ride knowing I was capable of the distance and elevation, but unsure of how long it would take me. The other concern was the stormy weather we’ve been having in Colorado recently. I knew the earlier I started the ride, the better my chances of finishing it.
I departed promptly at 6:00 AM. As I began to pedal my way up Squaw Pass Road, I knew that I could go faster, but I intentionally kept a pace that would be sustainable for the entire ride. The road had recently been repaved and was super smooth with a very nice bike lane. I was surprised at how many cyclists insisted in taking up so much of the roadway. The road was closed to all traffic but law enforcement and Sag vehicles, and apparently the meaning of the words “keep right” and “ride single file” were not clear to some cyclists. One State Trooper actually pulled a cyclist over for riding on the left side of the road in the wrong direction. I’m not sure what the outcome of that meeting was, but the conversation sounded unpleasant as I went by. I stopped at Aid Station #1 (18 miles into the ride) and had a banana and bagel and refilled a half full water bottle. I pulled on my wind jacket before leaving for the descent into Idaho Springs.
The descent into Idaho Springs went smoothly and the route through town was well marked by volunteers and law enforcement. As we headed west, I found myself in a sustained climb for the next 28 miles. When I came to Aid Station #2 (42 miles into the ride), I stopped to eat and refill my bottles. The best snack of the day was had at this aid station: it was a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with peanut butter and banana filling…mmmmm! The weather this far into the ride was still perfect: blue skies and lots of sunshine. I hopped back on the bike and continued to pedal towards Loveland Basin where I knew lunch awaited me.
As I approached the third Aid Station at Loveland Basin Ski Area (56 miles into the ride), I could see it was quite crowded with cars and cyclists. I found a place to park my bike and made my way to the food tents. Here I discovered an extremely long line of hungry cyclists awaiting their turn to grab food. When I finally got my chance at the food tent, I had the BEST ham and cheese sandwich ever, a handful of pretzels, half a banana, and a cookie. The line was moving so slowly that I was able to stand and consume all this food before I had moved 10 feet toward the water table. When I realized that I had already been there for 30 minutes and it would likely take another 30 minutes to fill water bottles, I decided to go with Plan B. Plan B was relying on my one full water bottle to get me to the next aid station where I was hopeful I would find less of a clusterf@ck.
I began to pedal up Loveland Pass, which I can’t say I’ve so much as driven over before. It was quite scenic and a rather short ascent of 4 miles. On the other side of the continental divide, it was quite windy. As I approached Aid Station #4 at Summit County High School (77 miles into the ride), I was nearly out of fluids. I was delighted that there was virtually no waiting at the hydration station and lots of shady places to sit. I picked up a small sack of trail mix, an orange slice, and a Cliff Bar and found a shady place to sit and eat. Keeping a close eye on the clouds to the west, I didn’t sit for too long before hopping back on the bike. I was thrilled to have made it this far into the ride and knew without a doubt that I would be finished not long after summiting Vail Pass.
The last time I rode my bike over Vail Pass was during the Copper Triangle two years ago when I ascended from the west side and descended on the east side. I was pleased to see that the east side of the pass had been repaved recently and was silky smooth. The
ascent from the east went quicker than expected and I’m pleased to say that I passed, but did not get passed by anyone. As I pulled into Aid Station #5 on the summit of Vail Pass (92 miles into the ride) I could see some dark clouds building to the west. I grabbed just a few pretzels, an orange slice, and another bag of trail mix. I had topped off one bottle with the Cytomax hydration mix at the previous aid station and had not had any gastrointestinal problems with it, so I decided to go full strength with the drink mix. If any problems arose, I only had 18 downhill miles left.
As I descended into Vail I was struck in the lips by an insect with a very sharp stinger. In my efforts to rapidly brush it from my lips, I nearly crashed. As I sit and type this blog post two days later, I have swelling in both lips as neither were spared by the angry insect. I’m just grateful that I had my mouth closed! As I continued to pedal through Vail, I kept looking down at my Garmin to see how much further I had to go. On the summit of Vail Pass, I had somehow mis-calculated that I had only 18 more miles to ride, but it was in fact 28 more miles to the finish. Those last 10 miles, despite being flat, felt like the longest miles of the day. At one point, I began to think I had missed a turn as the signage was not as prevalent in Avon as it had been along the rest of the route.
As I approached the final round-a-bout, I was greeted by Avon Police Officers with “Congratulations! Welcome to Avon!”. It was the best news I’d heard all day. By this time, I’d been listening to my bike make lots of noise for the last 90 miles and couldn’t wait to get off (check back for another blog post on that… I have video!)! Not to mention that my legs were a little tired. As I pulled to a stop I felt a tickle under my jersey near my waistline. I lifted up my jersey and saw what I can only conclude to be the little insect that had stung my lips 20 miles ago. Now he was leaving his mark on my tummy. I guess it’s my very own souvenir from the 2014 Triple Bypass!