Chris and I recently rode the 2013 Triple Bypass bike ride, and Chris posted this ride report.
2013 Triple Bypass (Sunday, Avon to Evergreen)
The Triple Bypass is 2 day out-and-back ride through Summit County, CO. I rode the Sunday leg, which was 120 miles from Avon to Evergreen. We crossed over Vail Pass (10,560 ft.), Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.), and Juniper Pass (11,140 ft.), amounting to over 10,000 ft. of elevation gain.
I landed in Colorado almost 2 weeks ahead of the ride so that I could acclimate to the elevation and get my legs some climb time in the mountains (as well as to see my friend get married, but that’s not relevant). Here’s a shot from a training ride just outside Telluride in the San Juan range of SW Colorado.
I spent quite a few days riding above 9000 feet and testing different clothing combinations to figure out what I should wear. My gut told me to layer up rather than throw on heavier outerwear or even full length rain gear (which was a gamble since there was a constancy to the rain each afternoon). In the end, going with lighter layers was the right choice since I could adapt to the weather quickly and without carrying a lot of extra weight. I carried just enough to be comfortable on cold mountain passes. I used the TBR kit, knee and arm warmers, wool socks (argyle of course), a fleece hat, long finger and short finger gloves, as well as a vest for descending and rain cover.
The ride started with the easiest mountain pass first, Vail Pass (10,500 altitude, ~3000 ft over 20 miles). Honestly, after climbing up 15% grade slopes at Garrett County, the 4-8% grade for Vail Pass was a walk in the park. All you had to do was lock in a steady cadence, pick a good song to hum, and maintain that for 20+ miles. Easy, right? Well, kinda. I didn’t take Vail pass particularly fast at first and after a few miles I checked behind me to discover a whole train of riders following my draft. As a general rule, I always ask or say something if I’m going to grab someone else’s wheel. Second, don’t ride like an ass in a group.
What seemed okay at first started to get dangerous: some riders were trying to get an awkward pace line going, a few others tried to pass and get in front of me. I wasn’t trying to ride alone but these people were doing all kinds of wacky stuff. So I channeled my inner “Chuck”, picked up the pace, and dropped the group.
The whole stretch of riding from Avon, over Vail pass, and down to Frisco was done primarily on a bike trail. This meant that descending after Vail pass involved some dodgy maneuvers to get around slower riders and Sunday trail runners. I didn’t have any close calls, but given the recklessness of some riders, I knew there would be accidents and didn’t want to be around them.
Next came Loveland Pass (11,990 altitude, ~3000 ft over 12 miles). This one is a bit steeper than Vail Pass, with lots of switchbacks and amazing views of Keystone and A-Basin.The ride was back on actual roads, so you could safely pass. Now if you like to rip your legs off with a nice long high-cadence climb, this is a good one for it. Towards the top, you hit a whole series of shorter switchbacks that are just incredible. Coming over the pass, most of us stopped for a photo and to throw on warmer gear. The next few miles of descending were cold, steep and covered in menacing rain clouds (see the photo above and below). But it was also seductive. Yes seductive. With use of the whole road, I suddenly felt like a Tour de France leader, taking corners at breakneck speed, charging down the hill to some imaginary finish line.
When I reached the bottom where lunch was being served, it started to drizzle and I knew if I didn’t keep moving, I would get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. I slammed some food, warmed up, and got out before the rain started. I heard later that it rained and a rider crashed out on the Loveland descent…his bike went over a ledge and exploded into a lot of little pieces. Really scary stuff, looking back on it.
Inline image 5
The rest of the ride from Loveland Pass to the base of Juniper was miserable. Although I avoided the rain, I was caught in a fierce headwind that seemingly crushed all forward progress. Fortunately, I met up with a super strong rider from Seattle and we traded turns in the wind. Both of us just wanted to get to the next climb, which seemed to be an eternity away (even though it was 25 miles of downhill!). There are few worse feelings than riding downhill and having to work for it. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to ride with an experienced cyclist who could crank the big wheel. We got into Idaho Springs, the lowest point on the ride, for one last break before taking on Juniper pass. The next climb would be the steepest and the hardest of the day.
Climbing up to Juniper Pass (11,140 altitude, 3600 ft over ~15 miles) was a transcendent experience because it was so steep and seemingly endless. We started at around 7,500 ft elevation where the weather was sunny and warm, passed through misty mountain rain clouds, and ascended up and up and up into a magical, almost surreal fog. About 2-3 miles into the climb, I was feeling all good and settled-in. All of a sudden some kid on a carbon cod-piece (who had been drafting my wheel) decided to challenge my lead and sprint up ahead. I can’t say I was surprised; I had slowed a little. But I decided I wasn’t going to let it stand. I grabbed his wheel, watched him slowly burnout, and dug deep for the next 12 miles.
By the time I reached Echo Lake, about 2-3 miles from the top, I must have passed hundreds of riders who all seemed to be spinning in place or doing switchbacks across the road. I think most people assumed I was doped to the gills because I was flying up the mountain like a man possessed. But I got a lot of encouragement and cheers from fellow riders, which was a nice change from the usual peloton banter of … “get out of my effing way!” or “dude, that’s not a lane”.
By the time I reached the top of Juniper, I was definitely drained. But I left enough in the tank so I could make a safe descent to the finish, which was just as steep as the climb up the pass and dropped about the same amount of elevation, ~3500 feet down to Evergreen. At this point in the ride, I just wanted to be done: Off the bike, no more pedaling, time for bed, lights out. In this state of mind, you start to rationalize really strange alternatives, like “if I fall over, at least I won’t be pedaling anymore”. There were two competing forces in my mind… the angelic white cyclist on my left shoulder told me “all the hard work is over, just enjoy the descent, stop worrying about beating people to the finish, you’ll be fine”. The demon cyclist on my right shoulder was like “f*ck it, you don’t deserve to be here unless you get into the drops and make this mountain your b*tch”.
So, I caved to the Angel of Darkness and took ~3500 feet of descending as fast as my body would allow, which was fine because that meant it would be tiring AND dangerous. Add in several miles of roadwork, many many sharp corners, lots of slower cyclists, and a goddamn fox (yes, a giant red fox walked out onto the road and gave me the finger) … let’s just say I earned my bike handling merit badge for the day.
I have to say, though, after biking across 3 mountain passes and reaching the finish line, it was really good to see Chuck there at the end. We had a big meal afterwards and caught up with a few friends of the shop.
So, would I do it again? Absolutely. 240 miles next time? Most likely, but they should really think about doing 120 as a qualified USAC race. Now that would be epic.