In the Saddle: The Terrible Triple | AspenTimes.com
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In the Saddle: The Terrible Triple

Bob Ward
Special to The Aspen Times

Cycling 123 miles in a day always will involve pain, even under the best conditions. So when I signed up and paid my money for the 2013 Triple Bypass from Avon to Evergreen, which includes three mountain passes and 11,000 feet of climbing, I knew I’d get saddle-sore, muscle-tired and much more.

All these assumptions about soreness and suffering proved true. But sometimes the elements you can’t predict — weather, for example — are the most compelling ones.

Just as a sunset photo comes alive thanks to unexpected clouds that scatter and filter the sun’s light, so was my predictable slog over Vail, Loveland and Juniper passes enhanced by the dark thunderheads that drenched me to the skin, along with several hundred other riders, on our final pass of the day.

I knew from the course maps and profiles that Juniper Pass would suck. This last climb would begin in Idaho Springs at the 90-mile mark in our day and end at mile 106, some 3,600 feet higher. The cold rain added a punishing dimension to the long, methodical grind.

Where the storm truly shined, however, was on the descent. Not only did the water make the road slippery and unsafe, but the speed we generated on the downhill made for a chilling wind on our wet skin. Ever tried gripping your brakes with numb, nearly frozen fingers? Your first thought is to stop and warm your hands, but you also know there’s relief and comfort in the higher temperatures and cloudless skies at the bottom of the mountain. So you keep spinning downhill, cursing the weather and wondering why you signed up, even as the rain on your glasses clouds your vision.

Yes, that descent was cold, miserable and even dangerous. But …

It was warm and dry at the finish line, and I had a fresh change of clothes. There was a free dinner for all riders. My wife and kids were there to greet me. And I revisited with my brother-in-law and riding partner all the great parts of the ride: the pre-dawn departure, the euphoria atop Loveland Pass and the high-speed descent to Loveland Basin.

At the end of the day, the misery of the final climb was only one chapter in my Triple Bypass book. Strangely, I think I’d even pay the money and do it all over again.


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