October 23, 2017

Go West Young Men (via the Triple Bypass)!

Last month I completed the Triple Bypass.  The “Triple” is one of Colorado’s “epic” rides and one that had been on my personal “to do” list for a while.  The event is fairly straightforward: ride from Evergreen, Colorado to Avon, Colorado while climbing up and descending down three major mountain passes—Squaw/Juniper (11,140 ft.), Loveland (11,990 ft.), and Vail (10,560 ft).  The course covers 120 miles and offers nearly 11,000 ft. of climbing.

The 2011 Triple Bypass Route Map (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

Although I had spent a considerable amount of time on my bike in early-2011, I didn’t train specifically for the Triple.  The Triple, while it certainly captures the attention of elite riders who wish to “race” the course, it is more an “everyman” event—this was especially true for me, as I simply wanted  to put some miles in and enjoy the ride.  More importantly, I was planning on supporting my friend Paul Hardcastle, who, against my recommendation against it, had managed to gain an entry to the inaugural “double”: a westbound Triple on Saturday, followed by the eastbound Triple on Sunday.  I had hoped to join my friend Roy Swanson and other members of “Team Glxy” for some miles.

For those thinking of tackling the Triple, I would recommend a periodized training plan to get you ready for a very long day in the saddle (depending on your existing level of fitness, 3 to 6 months of consistent training should provide ample training time).  Close-in training rides such as Deer Creek Canyon, High Grade, City View, as well as the climb up Squaw/Juniper pass (west out of Evergreen or east out Idaho Springs—my personal favorite) will go along way toward getting you ready for the climbs encountered on the Triple.  Don’t forget that in addition to the 50% mental, 50% physical equation, long sustained efforts generally depend on having a solid nutritional plan in place (one that has been repeatedly practiced during your training while working under demands that are similar to those likely to be faced on race day).

Paul arrived at my home shortly around 4 a.m. (Paul is my neighbor, so he walked over in the dark) and we loaded up and made our way to Evergreen.  Fortunately for me, we were able to forego the obligatory stop for Paul at Starbucks as the Evergreen location was not open at this early hour.  The morning was both crisp and cool (and dark) and, after hitting the Porta-Johns and packing up our nutrition and “layers” (an essential for any ride in the Colorado mountains), we headed to the “open” starting line.  I had hoped to get going closer to 5 a.m., but we ended up making it to the start closer to 6. We met Roy and briefly chatted before he disappeared up Squaw ahead of us.  Paul and I found our place among the mass of nearly 3,500 riders and moved up and over Pass #1.  After a blistering descent down Hwy. 103 we coursed through Idaho Springs and moved through the remainder of the course that took us through Georgetown, Silver Plume, and Bakerville.  Although there were a few stops along the way, we didn’t really hit the aid station “scene” until we made it to Loveland Ski Area.  After a short break for some lunch (I think Paul ate a pizza and perhaps had a beer … just kidding), we managed to meet up with Roy who elected to join us for the remainder of the ride.  As always, it was great to see Roy, an accomplished and capable cyclist, not to mention a quality guy.  We also learned that Roy was being “supported” by his family … Roy’s wife, their young daughter, and his parents were jumping from aid station to aid station so that they could share in the day.  As I looked out over I-70 I couldn’t help but think about my wife who was traveling (or at least would be shortly) along the interstate corridor to meet me in Avon.  My goal was to be waiting at the Westin to help her unload the children for our weekend mini-vacation in the mountains (as check-in was 4:00 p.m., we needed to make the ride in about 10 hrs.) … we needed to get going!  Next, it was up and over Loveland pass—a first for me on two wheels.  Another screaming descent followed, with a second reunion with Roy’s support team at another well stocked aid station at Summit County H.S, leaving us a final up and over … Vail Pass.

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson ascending Loveland Pass

We traded mountain roads for a more congested bike path and coursed up and up until we made it to the top of Vail Pass.  A final push was all that remained  AND it was supposed to be all downhill.  I checked my watch … I knew it would be close and elected to push a bit to get to Avon to meet my family.  We pushed a lot … in fact, at least to me, the final 20-plus miles in to town seemed to be the most challenging of the day.  After a bluebird day with the only threat of some precipitation contained in distant clouds that managed to stay away, the wind had picked up and turned into a formidable foe.  We systematically took our turns at the front and pulled each other (as well as considerable group of hanger-oner’s who were comfortable letting us do the work) into Avon.  Again, the elevation map clearly shows a gradual descent all the way into Avon; however, it felt more like a gradual climb to me!

The 2011 Triple Bypass Elevation Map, East to West (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

We arrived at Avon’s Elementary School after nearly 9 1/2 hours in the saddle (with a total time of around 10-ish) … I didn’t really keep any telemetry for  the actual time; but I know that it was approaching 4 p.m. when we crossed the finish.  Roy’s “crew” was waiting to greet us and after exchanging our post-race congratulations, Paul and I headed across Nottingham Park toward our hotel.  I spent my final moments with Paul trying to gauge how he felt and encourage him to accomplish the “double” as he had planned—unfortunately, this was not meant to be (Paul rode home with his wife the next day …).  Just as planned, I found my wife in the circle drive and proceeded to help with check-in, the day was officially over!

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson atop Vail Pass - 2011 Triple Bypass

The Triple is a beautiful ride and, while both the distance and the elevation seem daunting, it is a ride that can be enjoyed by a great number of cyclists (just consider the actually numbers, with more than 5,000 riders participating in the solo west, solo east, and combined double offerings).  Mark your calendars as registration opens in early-January and the ride take place in early-July!  For more information visit Team Evergreen.

 

 

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