Triple Bypass

I’ve been slow at writing about the Triple Bypass ride from nearly two weeks ago. I’m heading to Copper Mountain tomorrow for the Courage Classic, so now’s a good time.

The triple was the focus of my training for the first part of the summer, and I was definitely worried about how hard it would be. But, in reality, it just wasn’t too bad. It took a long time: 11 hours and 20 minutes, of which 9:40 was on the bike. But none of the climbs are really all that steep. They’re just long. Here’s the data I put on Strava.

The hardest part is the stretch from Idaho Springs to the top of Loveland Pass. In the first 13 miles you gain only 800 ft, but it picks up after that. In the next 16 miles, you gain 3,400 feet. Since I did the last bit of that climb with Dan two weeks before, I wasn’t really worried about it.¬†And actually, I’d scoped out all three climbs previously. I’m sure that’s a big part of why the ride wasn’t so bad.

I got up a little before 4am and picked up Dan a bit after 4:30. We made it down to Bergen Park in pretty good time and started that ride at about 5:50. That’s certainly the earliest I’ve ever been on my bike. It was a bit harsh after less than 4 hours of sleep. (I think Dan got even less!)

Dan rides a bit faster than me, so the plan was to meet up at the rest stops. He likes to take long breaks, while I like to hustle through them a bit. After riding about two miles together, Dan took off. That was the last I saw of him until the evening!

That first climb up Squaw Pass Road was a little slow. I’d guess that for every person I passed, 50-100 people passed me. It would have been demoralizing, except that I knew that all I had to do was keep going. I did my best to ignore all those fast people and stuck to my pace. (It was a good 10% slower than when I did it a month earlier with Dan, but that’s OK.)

Here I am at the top of the climb. This is basically Juniper Pass, but that pass goes north-south, and we were heading west.

No clue how I got that expression on my face. It must have been the crack photographer.

When I got to the first rest stop, I was overwhelmed. There were tons and tons of people there. The crowd was many times larger than I’d experienced at any other bike ride. I immediately gave up any real hope of finding Dan.

The next stretch was downhill into Idaho Springs. I’ve gotten reasonably good at descending (without pushing it much), and passed lots of people. The gradual uphill from Idaho Springs to Georgetown was kinda fun. There was a strong headwind, but I managed to sneak in behind a couple of different packs of folks, so I made good progress. I even took the pull from time to time.

After Georgetown, we rode along the road that goes under the Georgetown Loop Railroad. The name comes from the loop that the tracks make over itself in order to negotiate the steep grade up to Silver Plume.

Just after that bridge, the route turns onto a bike path that took us all the way to lunch at the Loveland Valley Ski Area. While on the path, I stopped to watch the train heading downhill from Silver Plume. (The engine goes downhill in reverse since it’s easier than turn it around. I expect there’s a wye in Georgetown, but I don’t think there is up in Silver Plume. Yes, my train nerdery is showing. Thanks, I know.)

After a quick ham sandwich for lunch, I headed out to do the final 4.5 miles to the top of Loveland Pass. By this point, all the fast riders must have been ahead of me. I climbed slow, but I don’t think more the 2 or 3 people passed me in the 45 minutes it took to reach the top. (And I probably only passed 2 or 3 people as well.)

The descent from down past Arapahoe Basin and Keystone is wonderful. The first bit winds some, but after A-basin, it’s a nearly straight road with a 6% grade making it an easy coast at 35 mph.

After the short climb over Swan Mountain Road, I stopped a bit longer at the Summit County High School rest stop. This was the only point of the ride where there was any rain. The clouds to the west early in the day had me worried quite a bit (see that first pic above), but nothing really materialized (until later…). The rain lasted just long enough for most of the riders to get out their rain jackets and arm warmers. I just took off from the stop and was rewarded when the very light rain stopped about two minutes later.

The climb up Vail Pass is, by far, the easiest of the three big climbs. But it comes nearly 90 miles into the ride (and more than 9 hours into the day for me). Still, I was tired. My heart rate was low for the whole climb so it was my legs that were the limiting factor. I reached to top somewhere around 3:30 and took another relaxing break. (No pictures from up here. I must have been getting tired, and never even thought about it.)

The rest of the ride to Avon was fast. First, there was the steep descent off the pass. But from Vail on, it’s still all basically downhill. If I were alone, I probably would have barely managed 15 mph because there was, once again, a stiff head wind. But there were still plenty of people around me and I got into a group that pushed into the wind at 20-25 mph the whole way to the finish.

I arrived in Avon shortly after 5pm. I immediately texted Dan to see where he was waiting. He responded back right away. He was still on top of Vail Pass – 28 miles behind me! Now, I know Dan. He either got hurt, which I doubted, or he was doing the ride all wrong, and was enjoying himself too much. It was the latter. He’d hooked up with some folks early in the day and had spent, in his words, “about 45 minutes at each rest stop”. Sheesh! How could he do that!?

Anyhow, I wandered over to the BBQ and got myself a bunch of chicken and a hamburger (and a little salad to not look like a complete barbarian). I sat down to eat and the rain began. I ate faster. The rain came down harder. I wolfed down my last bites and grabbed my bike. And the downpour began. A regular gully-washer. I got on my bike and rode to the hotel about a mile away. That was the worst rain I’d been in in a long time. By the time I was in my room, the rain had stopped. Sigh… that’s weather in Colorado.

Dan showed up about an hour later. He had a great time, but had to ride in quite a bit more rain than me. A little later, some of our friends who had ridden McClure Pass that day stopped by to say hi. We walked to the nearby liquor store to get some drinks (mine was the only alcoholic one – I deserved a beer, dammit!), and chatted about the exploits of the day. They said I looked tired, but I felt pretty good.

In the end, I really enjoyed the ride. It wasn’t quite the social experience for me that it was for Dan, but still, I chatted with a bunch people along the way and at the rest stops. If I do it again, I may decide to do the ride back from west to east. Some people (~800!), did it both ways this year – east to west on Saturday, and west to east on Sunday. That’s just nuts. I’d never even consider doing that!… No, no, really,… I wouldn’t….

One thought on “Triple Bypass

  1. Kevin Taberski

    Excellent job Dave – congratulations!

    Regarding the Georgetown Loop Railroad – as you know I spent a number of Saturdays volunteering for the railroad before I got busy with other “stuff”. Anyway, there is no wye at either end of the loop! The engines always face uphill – the main reason is that you always want to ensure that you have water on the crown sheet, so it’s best to keep the firebox on the downhill side. From a practical perspective, it makes sense to keep the engine on the up-hill end of the train to keep the couplers under tension on the way up – it turns out that the friction of the wheel flanges on the cars on the down-hill trip are almost enough to keep the train’s speed in-check.

    Finally, everyone knows that the little engine goes puff, puff, puff … chug, chug, chug up hill – it would just be wrong if the engine was facing the wrong way.


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