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Triple By-Pass - CycleOther

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Evergreen / Avon, Colorado
United States
Team Evergreen
65F / 18C
Total Time = 8h 05m
Overall Rank = /3500
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
  • 8h 05m
  • 120 miles
  • 14.84 mile/hr

I think this counts as one of my "bucket list" events. Not a race per se, but with 120 miles and 11k feet of climbing, peaking at 12000', it was plenty to give me the normal pre-race butterflies. I spent the week testing out my climbing legs on some of the hills around Boulder, but had no idea what the extra few thousand feet of altitude would do. It turned out to be a fantastic day in the saddle. Amazing views, each of the 3 big climbs was different from the next. Excellent organization and volunteers, and a fun atmosphere among the riders. The unpredictable Colorado weather was fairly well behaved. A few dark clouds teased us along the way but produced no more than sprinkles. It was only in the last 5 miles that the skies opened up, putting a very literal damper on the finish. Temps were as good as could be expected given the altitude. But the wind: the headwind was relentless on the point-to-point course, making us all the more appreciative of the shelter occasionally provided by forests or mountains.

I rolled out of Bergen Park around 7:15am. It's a show-and-go event, so people had been starting for at least 2 hours before that. The ride gets right down to business with the climb of Squaw/Juniper Passes (11,100', 3300' ascent). This climb follows a gently winding road below the tree line, and was mostly sheltered from the wind, with occasional broad vistas. Managed to hold a 10 mph average up the hour and a half climb. The 15 mile descent to Idaho Springs was great fun: steep enough to get up some speed, but smooth and straight enough to not terrify me. As happened throughout the day, I passed loads of people on the climbs, and passed almost nobody on the descents. I just don't have the stomach for that kind of thing. Now I understand why the Tour de France riders grab jackets or stuff newspaper down their jerseys at the top of those alpine cols - it gets cold coming down. (Probably obvious to most people, but an entirely new experience for me.)

After briefly refueling with my crew, Andrea and Zoe, at Idaho Springs, it was time for the slog towards Loveland Pass, the big climb of the day. It's uphill all the way from mile 31 to mile 60. The earlier part of the climb was mostly quite gradual, but that was where the headwinds were the strongest, which made it more demoralizing, as the road looks relatively flat and you feel like you shouldn't be working so hard to maintain 12-14 mph. First 15 miles of the ascent were almost all close to the raging torrent of Clear Creek, with snow-capped peaks looming in the distance. From mile 50-55 we got some relief from the wind in a forest bike trail, and used that to gain a few more feet. With 3000' feet of the climb behind us, the 'real' ascent up to Loveland Pass started right after the 55 mile aid station, with a series of mile-long ramps up to the summit. Now this felt like real climbing, as we could see the lines of riders snaking up the mountain, and the views getting bigger and bigger. I was working to maintain 7 mph, but being a light-ish triathlete I still had the encouragement of having plenty of people to pass all the way up. Long line at the top for photos next to the Continental Divide sign, not to be passed up, then an even more exciting descent than the first down to Keystone ski resort.

Most of the climbing was behind us by this point, but now every little bit of ascent felt like a lot more work. The 'bonus' climb of Swan Mountain added only about 500', but it seemed much bigger. And the gradual ascent up to Vail Pass (10500') didn't look too bad on the map, but I was counting down the tenths of a mile to the summit. Most of that climb follows a bike path that's either right next to or in between the lanes of I-70. That doesn't sound too appealing, but it's one of the most beautiful bike trails I've ever followed, and you barely notice the freeway. Only downer of being on a bike path is that the grades aren't smoothed like on the roads, so instead of a gradual 4-5% we instead got a wide mix from flat to 10+%, which felt rather more draining on the legs. By the top of Vail Pass I was feeling rather drained. I was sick of gatorade and energy bars, and was ready to be done. The first 10 miles of the descent was fairly steep, and much of it on a narrow bike path. I think I was feeling a bit more reckless by this point, so I didn't hold back. Then the last 15 miles was flat to slightly descending through Vail and outlying settlements. With the headwind in full force it was still no picnic, but at least the miles were going by quickly now. Many folks riding in pelotons to shield from the wind, or latching on to me to shield from the wind. I guess it's legit cycling, but it somehow offended my triathlete's sensibility, so I took an odd pleasure when a small incline would come along and I could push up it to release my hitchhiker to the elements. It started to storm a few miles from the end. I simply wrapped up and put my head down, couldn't easily see where I was going, just working to make sure that I didn't crash into a car or another rider.

Ride time was around 8:05. Total time was a couple of hours more than that, with stops for food, photos, texting the crew about progress. But I really didn't care about the speed. Just happy to make it to the end.
Post race
Event comments:

Justifiably a classic.

Last updated: 2011-05-31 12:00 AM
08:05:00 | 120 miles | 14.84 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/3500
Wind: Headwind
Course: 3 mountain passes, 11,000 feet of total climbing.
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2011-07-10 11:55 AM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Triple By-Pass
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