One and Two
Here today, gone tomorrow, another Double Triple Bypass has come and gone. This was the 26th year of the Triple Bypass, and my sixth time participating in it. The Triple Bypass travels from Bergen Park, Colorado (~7,800 ft) to Avon, Colorado (~7,400 ft). The route is about 120 miles one way, with four mountain passes providing 10,990 feet of climbing over 92 miles; the remainder is mostly downhill to Avon. The ride originated when a handful of Evergreen, Colorado, cyclists did it for fun. It's become a major cycling event in the state and draws riders from all over.
At the end of each Triple, I proclaim never to ride it again. Quite simply, it's very painful to those of us who aren't paid to ride every day or who have a hit-and-miss ride schedule. Even in good shape, it hurts.
Three years ago, the Double Triple Bypass was spawned. The Double is a two-day event in which you ride to Avon on Day One and ride back to Bergen Park on Day Two. Easy enough? Yeah, right! Even though I vowed to never ride the Double Triple again, I was on it. I've tackled the Double Triple three years now, and I'm claiming one out of two. My age and increasing inability to recover overnight shows more each year, my legs often turn into useless wood stumps, sometimes I cramp too much, and probably worst of all, I'm beginning to get chicked (passed by a girl) more and more! Sorry, but it's a guy thing. The latter completely destroys a guy's mental health. So, no, I don't think I'll ride it again – HA!
Snowcatcher and I groggily stumble out of bed. It's 3 a.m., and we would like to be in Bergen Park by 4:30. Going through the motions, we make it to the car and hit the road. Soon after heading into the foothills, I-70 comes alive with vehicles sporting bikes. Our pre-dawn excitement escalates. Hair on fire, we quickly roll into the Bergen Park staging area.
Camera in hand, Snowcatcher goes to work while I prep the bike. Minutes later I hit the lights, clip into the pedals, bid Snowcatcher farewell and disappear into the early dawn darkness. It's my favorite time of day, and I settle in for a 16-mile grind. Little red lights flicker in the distance, and I wonder what the riders are focused on. It's erie quiet, just the occasional heavy breathing of a rider, or the light hum of chain and cogs. Juniper is the first pass on the day's docket. It's straight up right out of the shoot for 16 miles, topping out at 11,140 feet. That's 3,340 feet of vertical morning wake-up! I greet the summit with a sigh of completion.
All the work to gain elevation is for moot. For now, it's a 16-mile descent to Idaho Springs, elevation 7,500 feet. It's cold descending at 30 miles per hour, and I'm eager to reach lower elevations and sunlight. In Idaho Springs, I hook-up with Snowcatcher. She takes my cold weather gear and riding lights and makes sure I'm eating something. All around us the spectator activity is awesome – cowbells, hooting, hollers – all riders are cheered on; it's nothing but positive energy. I absorb it while I can. I'm only 32 miles into the ride, and the push to 12,000 feet is about to begin.
Snowcatcher supplies me with Fig Newtons – awesome food! However, I know I need to drink and eat more. At 42 miles, I wing into the Easter Seal Camp aid stop. Food, water, music and the blue room; it doesn't get any better than that.
The base of Loveland Pass is just 14 miles away. But, there is a cost – lots of sweat while reeling in the sky! The ride into Georgetown is easy going, but laidback suddenly ramps up at the west end of town. Stepped road and steep bike path await from here to Loveland Basin Ski Area. This section is difficult for me because it's mostly up. Yet, there are some small rollers thrown in for sport. Rollers are too hard on my legs. I prefer to settle into a long consistent climb. Well, I got what I wished for. From the ski area to the summit is four miles of consistent climbing to above treeline and culminating on 11,990-foot Loveland Pass. This is the halfway point, with more than five hours in the saddle.
I slam two Cliff Shot gels and it begins! This is my realm. I slink into the saddle and find a good pace with the occasional out-of-the-saddle climb to complement different parts of the leg. I also love to be above treeline. Everything is ticking, and despite monsoonal flows, the weather is holding out. My favorite person greets me on the summit, and I delve into more Fig Newtons. It's always energizing to see Snowcatcher.
After a quick call to the gravity gods, I point the nose down and accelerate toward the switchbacks of the Arapahoe Ski Area, followed by the long, straight descent to Keystone Ski Resort. While leaning into the first set of switchbacks... SHAZAAAM! I just got chicked! This can't be happening. She's even in a wedge position, an aerodynamic but not overly stable position on a 16-pound bike. Wow — you go girl!
The next stop on the docket is Summit County High School for food and drink. There is a catch though, Swan Mountain. This is not an alpine pass, rather a pass over a ridgeline. However, the final climb to the ridgeline is super steep, and I've been known to cramp a bit here. Fortunately, I have no cramps today. The descent is fast, too, emptying straight into the aid station. This is my favorite rest stop because of the vibe. Tired or not, at this point you know you've probably got the cat by the tail. The setting is somewhat idyllic because you're surrounded by beautiful high peaks. Rest stop volunteers were playing Christmas music as well. Snow – that's all ski resort folks think about – snow and the holiday season. I like snow, too! At this point, I'm 77 miles into my ride, and the morning is aging.
"Cold doesn't bother me anyway!" Extra points if you can name the film!
Onward ho... the route now follows bike path all the way to Copper Mountain Resort, then over Vail Pass and down into the Vail Ski Resort. It's turned out to be a beautiful day with afternoon storms not quite materializing. My legs are tired, and I've had several more SHAZAAAMs. Nonetheless, the ride up 10-Mile to Copper Mountain and Vail Pass is stunning, as usual. I dig deep to make Vail Pass. Snowcatcher is waiting, and we have a little break. Bidding farewell, I begin a high speed 11-mile descent to East Vail. This is one of those descents that leaves a rider with an ear-to-ear grin. Today does not disappoint.
From Vail the name of the game is to survive the roundabouts scattered along 17 miles of ride. Europeans use them as funnels; in Colorado they are for gardens and speed checks. They can be terrifying at times. Soon, I make the turn (1/4 of a roundabout) into Avon, cross the Eagle River, make a sharp left turn followed by a sharp right, rattle across a double set of train tracks and try to put on a, "I'm not tired look" across the finish line amidst cowbells and teenage cheerleaders. It's done, I'm hungry and I can't get enough of Snowcatcher's back rubbing. After a nice meal (part of the package), we walk the bike path along the river to our car. Day One becomes a memory.
Day Two started well with a ride in the early morning dark up to Vail Ski Resort. From Vail, the ride up the west side of Vail Pass is much steeper and longer than the east side. This is the side where we train, but training doesn't seem to matter today. Watching the early morning light ignite the Gore Range gave way to hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing. I felt good during the dark portion of the ride. However, by the time I summited Vail, my legs were gone. Meeting up with Snowcatcher on the summit cheered me immensely.
At this point, I knew the day was probably a fail. Yet I hoped the descent down Vail Pass and the 10-Mile Range might rejuvenate me a bit. Cold and tired, I met up with Snowcatcher at Frisco and regretfully called it a day. It wasn't so bad, within minutes I had a hot cuppa Joe!
2011, the first year the Double Triple Bypass was offered, I had no problem completing both days. In 2013, I threw in the towel at the same location as today. Obviously, I don't train well enough. I'm also getting fat and old and need to work harder and eat better.
See ya next year Double Triple Bypass!
Here are some stats:
Fastest year, east to west – 2008, 7:42:39
Slowest year, east to west – 2014, 8:44:40