Any Colorado cyclist knows about the notorious Triple Bypass. It doesn’t actually involve a scalpel but rather 120 miles of cycling over three mountain passes (Squaw Pass, Loveland Pass, Vail Pass) with over 10,000 feet of climbing. It’s a very popular ride that fills up quickly. It’s definitely something worth having on the cycling resume. The journey took me a little over 10 hours with around nine hours of riding. This was no casual ride.
The ride was reasonably brutal but also beautiful and enormous fun. (Equating self-inflicted brutality with fun is common among cyclists I think.) Save for the very ugly wreck I saw near the end of the ride, everything went exceedingly well–even with the afternoon shower and high winds. Traveling Colorado by bicycle is a wondrous thing.
The day started at about 4:30 am and the wife dropped me off at Bergen Park at 6:15 am. I joined about 3,499 other riders for a bit of climbing up Squaw Pass. All went well but several other riders had flats early. I saw one rider walking his bike–not a good sign.
I asked, “You OK? You need any help?”
“Ah… This is my third flat,” he said.
That’s a nightmare. Fortunately there were support vehicles orbiting us as we rode. I hope he got to finish the ride.
The ride up Squaw Pass featured all the mountain scenery you can imagine. Any tourist to Colorado would be impressed–as would most residents. Tremendous views of many mountain peaks were all around. Nice enough, but the ride down into Idaho Springs was helluva thrill ride! The scenery was exquisite, the roads were in good shape and the traffic was minimal. I believe I can descend fairly well (I’m 200 lbs.; thus gravity tends to welcome me) but some of these guys were SO fast downhill I couldn’t believe it. It’s like they were sprinting downhill, taking turns at vicious speeds. My gajones are only about medium-sized it seems. But how cares? It was all fun. Then we were into Idaho Springs.
From Idaho Springs the ride sort of hit a lull. I think most of us were anticipating the next big climb which was Loveland Pass. To get there we had to travel alongside and then finally on Interstate 70. This is nothing to dream about. Part of the route involved a slightly muddy, rocky road that was quite unsuited to road bikes. It wasn’t treacherous but I’d like to avoid such roads in the future. As for riding on I-70 (or bicycling on any interstate for that matter), this is a harsh and ugly thing. It is necessary from time to time however.
If you ride bikes in the mountains then you know getting an early start is wise. Winds tend to pick up around noon and it’s always about a 50% chance that a storm will blow through. This means you may get a sprinkle or you may get a cold soaking.
True to form, the wind started to gust as we marched onto the highway. Clouds were gathering If you like a windy uphill slog next to SUVs and tractor trailers then you’ll love this part of the ride. I’ll move on to more interesting parts.
The big lunch stop was at the Loveland Ski Area. We were about 60 miles in. We’d had a couple of other aid stops but this one was very welcome. (WHOOOOO! Did I want to sit in a chair…. A rock would have to do.) The refuel felt good but I wanted caffeine. I thought I brought two caffeinated energy gels with me but I managed to forget them. I wanted all the chemical assistance allowed by law as I had to climb up the nearly 12,000 feet of Loveland Pass, but no dice.
This was the toughest part of the ride for me. The climb started well enough but soon I felt light headed and my stomach was in slight turmoil. Both symptoms are rare for me. This is where all the weird mental imagery and self-talk started. I thought of my ride up Mt. Evans (hardest thing I’ve ever done); thought of my dog; thought of ice cream, beer, big pizza… I played Judas Priest and Black Sabbath in my head. Pretended I was riding l’Alpe D’Huez… None of it helped much. I got to the top and sat down on some warm pavement. I could’ve napped right there on the shoulder. Couldn’t do that though so I got the jacket on and got ready for another warp-speed run downhill.
By this time significant dark clouds were all over the place and the wind was gusting wildly. It was into an absurd headwind that climbed up Swan Mt. Road and around Dillon Reservoir. White caps were on the water and the sky was a thick, dark purple. Looked like DEFCON 2, but the big storm held off…
One more aid station stop and it was on to the third and final climb up Vail Pass. The rain started about a half-hour in to this portion of the ride. I had almost the right gear: full-finger gloves and a water RESISTANT jacket. The lesson learned is that I need to get an actual water PROOF jacket. That said, I felt pretty good. Climbing meant I was generating heat and I didn’t have to worry about slipping and sliding on a fast downhill. The full-finger gloves were vital.
The rain stopped in about a half hour and then the sun was out! I felt fantastic at this point–why?–I have no idea. I tend to like cool temps and I had them. Made climbing a lot easier for me. Plus, Vail Pass didn’t seem too terribly steep and the scenery was absolutely stunning. Everything was green and blooming. Looked like something out of “the Sound of Music,” complete with a picturesque mountain stream. (We rode by a lot of them throughout the day. It’s amazing how much easier it is to grind out a long climb when there’s flowing water nearby.)
Bed time now. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow.