“I thought you said you are in perfectly good health,” Richard remarked during French Conversation in Fort Collins while we were talking about couverture santé in the United States and insurance premiums.
Apparently, when I casually mentioned I was “going to do the Triple Bypass,” Richard didn’t realize that I was talking about Colorado’s iconic bicycle ride up Juniper, Loveland, and Vail passes, and was not due for open heart surgery.
This was the first year I’d do the Triple Bypass despite living in the Centennial State for 16 years now. Part of the reason is because it is so popular that it usually sells out quickly and requires a commitment many months in advance. Another is that it is, at least on paper, not a great biking value: it costs more than a couple hundred dollars just to sign up for the ride, and then there’s lodging and transportation on top of that. It is a logistical hassle because it’s a point-to-point race.
Last year, however, my 2018 RAAM team of all-blind stokers planned on doing the TB as a reunion of sorts. That was cancelled due to COVID, of course, but this year’s 32nd edition was on, albeit a month later than its usual July date. So I signed up… in January.
Since that time my life has taken several delightful but unexpected turns, including getting vaccinated sooner than anticipated, running eight marathons in four weeks, and then doing an absolutely amazing trip to Spain. During that time the opportunities to ride a bicycle were few to none, and when I got back from the Iberian Peninsula I regretted that I had already signed up for the ride. Never mind there were still over two weeks to train. Heh.
During those 15 days, I managed to get in only one ride with a lot of climbing. But it was a quality ride: a 16+ hour jaunt from Fort Collins to Walden and back.
It turned out this single ride with about as much climbing in 202 miles as the Triple Bypass had in its 107 miles was sufficient training. I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was feeling on all three passes.
This is not to say I was super fast. Despite being signed up for the Gran Fondo option in which three uphill segments—one for each pass—were timed, I opted to not contest the first one. Nevertheless, I still was passing a lot of people on Juniper Pass despite taking it easy.
Then I carefully coasted down to Idaho Springs and conservatively rode up Loveland Pass until reaching the Fondo’s start and finish timing mats. During that four-mile stretch, I passed at least a hundred people and only one person sped by me. So I knew I was putting in a pretty good effort even if not anything close to a maximum heart rate one.
Vail Pass was a similar story, except that I passed by at least 100 people and no one passed me. Then it was downhill to the finish. Or almost.
When I entered the finishing chute in Vail, just over nine hours had elapsed. Again, it wasn’t a Tour de France performance by any stretch, but considering how conservatively I was riding and how long I spent at each aid station (5-10 minutes), it was not bad.
Moreover, I was happy to complete this beautiful ride—in which most of the roads were closed to cars for the sake of the 5000 cyclists who participated—without bonking or crashing. You can get a good sense of the scenery in the one-minute video I made of the ride, below.
It turned out that not only was I still in perfect health after the ride, but also in decent biking shape!
- Thanks to my buddy Manuel for lending me his Ford Escape to transport my bike to the race. I ended up driving it to the Evergreen Valley Elementary School parking lot the night before and slept in the car. I think it beat sleeping in bed at home, waking up at 3:00 and driving 1.5 hours to Evergreen, and trying to find a place to park.
- As mentioned above, y 2018 RAAM cycling team, Team Sea to See, was supposed to have a reunion of sorts here. But most folks who signed up ended up not coming due to injury, lack of training, or other commitments. Only Dick S., who did the “Double Bypass” Georgetown-to-Evergreen option, made it out. Happy, Dick and I ran into each other at Aid Station #4 at Summit County Church.
- From a timing perspective for the Fondo, if one were to only contest two of the three climbs, it would have made sense to include Juniper Pass as one of them. This is because it was by far the longest segment with the best opportunity to gain (or lose) time. But I didn’t want to risk going so hard on the first climb that I’d suffer on the next two.
- In the pre-ride reports I read, it seems like every year there are accidents on the descents. This year was no exception. Dick told me about how he saw one guy go over his handlebars on the descent after Juniper Pass, and that ambulances had to attend to a guy who overcooked a corner on the bike trail after Vail Pass. I hope those people were ok and that there weren’t any other accidents that I didn’t hear about.
Total distance: 107.6 miles
Total climbing: 9573 feet
Total time: 9h4m (11.9 MPH)
Moving time: 8h46m (12.3 MPH)
Gran Fondo Results
Note: Only 411 of the 5000 participants elected to be timed in the Gran Fondo, which added another dimension to the challenge.
Juniper Pass (did not contest): 1:17:44, Division: 134/282, Overall: 209/454, Men: 193/411
Loveland Pass: 28:28, Division: 41/282, Overall: 73/454, Men: 69/411
Vail Pass: 21:04, Division: 20/282, Overall: 37/454, Men: 35/411
Total 3 passes: 2:07:16, Division: 82/282, Overall: 137/454, Men: 128/411