By Bill Plock
If you have ever met Jen Barbour, the Executive Director of Team Evergreen, who puts on the annual Triple Bypass, you have felt her passion for cycling and equal compassion for people. In an organization who exists to raise money for local charities while riding bikes, she is the perfect fit.
That passion punches a big energy punch too, and like the way she rides a bike, her efforts are relentless and enduring. She has been swamped this year with the recent acquisitions of the Bailey Hundo, and Beti Bike Bash. Then add in the new Floyd Hill Sessions Series (Mtb weekly timed enduro series) and Co2ut Gravel Ride along with all the COVID challenges and working on the Triple Bypass and Bob Cook Mt. Evans Hill Climb, Jen is, well, buried. We managed to sneak a few minutes of her time and ask a few questions about the Triple Bypass and Team Evergreen.
303: In the 32nd edition of the Triple Bypass it moved from Avon back to Vail (like the original Triple) and moved about month later into August. Why were those changes made?
Jen: We determined it was in everyone’s interest to move the date later in the year, not knowing how long COVID would continue to ruin the party. August is the latest we could go and still have enough light for everyone to finish. Though we loved ending in Avon, it was always our goal to bring the Triple back to its roots and finish in Vail. We are so happy that the town had room for us our riders can experience Vail’s beauty, amenities, and world-class hospitality.
303: This year you introduced the Gran Fondo for folks who want to have an extra challenge and race the clock, did you consider timing the climb from Idaho Springs to the Loveland ski area aid station, many think that is the hardest part of the triple?
Jen: Well, that would be quite a challenge. It’s true, to many, the hardest part of the Triple isn’t even a pass; it’s the trek from Idaho Springs to Loveland. Unfortunately, because of the narrow bike path from Bakerville to Loveland, timing that section, even uphill, would be dangerous as we occasionally see traffic in the opposite direction. We want the Fondo riders to have a clean shot at their best time.
303: The Triple Bypass has operated for years as an event where the proceeds all went to local charities, bike advocacy groups and organizations like the Colorado cycling league. Team Evergreen, the organizers of the Triple is a non-profit, you had mentioned that this year people could consider part of their registration as a donation. Is that accurate?
Jen: Yes! Part of their registration is a donation. As a 501c3, a portion of the ride is tax-deductible as the Triple proceeds, as with all Team Evergreen events, goes to local non-profit and cycling advocacy organizations.
303: Do you have any new charities you are donating to in 2021 that you would like to talk about?
Jen: Oh my, there are so many great groups we work with (over 40 annually). There are so many cool things going on out there, and not all we give to is cycling related. Cross Purpose is one that comes to mind. They have a large team, and we support them through a direct donation to their organization for every rider. Here’s an inspirational story about one of their riders from 2019https://www.9news.com/article/sports/homeless-man-taking-on-triple-bypass/73-573748658
Also, one of our favorite groups to work with is PEO, which gives higher education scholarships to women. Project Bike Tech is an excellent in-school bike mechanic program (they just located a new shop at Clear Creek High School).
303: What are some of your personal favorite stories of a charity that benefitted from the Triple?
Jen: I love all the great things our contributions do to help support the community, but I’m a sucker for animals and land. We give to Colorado Canine Rescue and Wild Animal Sanctuary, which is totally rad, and Mountain Area Land Trust helps preserve natural areas.
303: How long have you been the Event Director?
Eight years, going on nine. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
303: What do you love most about your position?
Jen: Giving away money – makes such a difference, and we hope to get back to it in 2021. And the incredible looks of accomplishment on the faces of people crossing the finish line.
303: What was most valuable thing you learned about TE and your position because of COVID?
Jen: That I’m lucky. And many of us are. Whatever minor bitches or frustrations I have is nothing compared to someone who wasn’t working this past year. Or who had a family member or friend that died. It’s all about perspective, and I’m thankful that Team Evergreen can support my position. But I’m also very aware that other non-profits are struggling, and we are doing our very best to give as much as we can in 2021.
303: What is your favorite segment of the triple and why? The start from Evergreen to the top of Juniper Pass.
Jen: The sun is just coming up, and we close the road so there isn’t traffic. It’s the most peaceful thing you can do with thousands of others beside you.
303: How many people have done every triple bypass?
Jen: One woman did every Triple through 2018, but she didn’t join us in 2019. Her name is Sue Meinerz. The other person that has done that many is George Rooney. He’s a character you should talk with!
303: What is one of the most courages and inspiring stories from all the years of the Triple Bypass.
Jen: Oh yes, I do. Many have celebrated a successful heart surgery by joining us on the ride, the homeless gentleman in the news story with the Cross Purpose team above and my favorite rider, Karol. She lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and did the Double Triple and the Mt Evans Hill Climb. Story Below..
Eighteen years ago I had a bad motorcycle accident. Eighteen months of more than a dozen surgeries, attempts to save my leg, infections and things no one should go through. I didn’t walk for a good portion of 2 years before being fit for a prosthetic. I had complications and more surgeries after the amputation, which delayed my being able to walk. I just kept my sights set on another motorcycle. Yes, another Harley. 🙂
Four years ago I slipped into a Spin class just to start getting into cardio shape again. Little did I know what an adventure this was going to be. There was a sign-up sheet for The Santa Fe Century on the wall. It was 2 months away. I thought I could do it. All I had was a mountain bike that I bought myself after getting that prosthetic. I didn’t ride it much. Too freaked out after falling too many times on it. I had NO idea what cycling was really. I signed up for the 1/2 century and bought a hybrid bike. I was wary of road bikes and wasn’t convinced I could ride one. I rode spin classes to learn the basics from instructors who were cyclists and great, caring people. I started riding 10 – 15 miles at a time on the road. I knew I had to start working up to 50 pretty quickly. I did. I completed my 1/2 century that mid May. I kept riding my hybrid. This time, I had my sights set on the full century for the following year.
Three – two – one. I rode that full century each of the consecutive years. I bought a starter road bike the following year and started riding, really riding. My mileage that first year was 8,000. I kept it up and kept learning. Then, I outgrew the first road bike. I got another. I was riding nearly 12,000 miles this past year. Someone put a bug into my ear about two big rides last fall. One of them was Rough Riders 200 in Angel Fire. It was a double century two weeks before the Triple Bypass. And, of course, the other ride was this one! I have completed all of them this season.
I registered for this ride in February. I was pretty unsure. I thought I really had just stepped into another world. I watched YouTube videos, I was visiting my bike shop a lot for training and nutrition advice. I started charting out these few months and deciding how to work out and get my strength up. My disability requires that I really take care of my limb – I am a lower left leg amputee. There are a lot of issues, from special bike fitting, gearing, components, pedal spacers, adjustments to nutrition, pain control and the prosthetic itself. It’s a lot to adapt to and learn about all at once, especially when one graduates into higher mileage and more demanding rides. I just kept riding every chance I could and praying the ski area would melt to I could start doing those rides.
When I completed the Angel Fire ride the second weekend of July, I had more confidence going into this one. Yet, I was still pretty filled with anxiety about it. I knew this was a much bigger and more demanding ride. I did have that ride going for me because I was fresh off that conditioning, so I knew I still was pretty strong. It also taught me a lot and showed me certain things that worked and didn’t work – such as having to have my saddle cut out under my sit bones. I also learned via my physical therapy sessions that it demands about 35% more work from my body for the same results as a cyclist with both legs. I have to train and eat accordingly. I’ve learned to take care of myself and learned down time is really a healing force. Because, it is difficult not to ride when a beautiful day dawns.
Two days ago I was starting with a group around 5:30 for the Saturday ride. I was so tired, yet I was so excited and unsure. This ride demanded so much of me and it took me longer than I wanted it to; but, it didn’t matter. Each difficult pedal stroke was joy. It represented all these years of the unknown. I didn’t know if I could have a sport where I could really push myself, be outdoors and feel the freedom I do with cycling. This past Saturday taught me so much about myself. I had more people wishing me well, wanting to speak with me, shake my hand, pose with me for a picture than I could imagine. It’s unexpected. I don’t do this for anything but wanting to really feel what I can accomplish. This was one of the best experiences of my life. To many people, it’s another century type ride in the season. To me, it was a huge event. I knew dropping out wasn’t an option. I registered to finish. I’m a different person than when I started riding this winter. I’m a different person than I was before July rolled around. And, I’m certainly a stronger, more confident person from riding The Triple Bypass. I am grateful to be able to enjoy this. I embrace it for so many reasons and it gives me such satisfaction and joy. Seeing the Colorado Rockies has been one of my life’s favorite things from a young age; to be able to ride through them on a bicycle is mind-blowing. I can tell you that The Double Triple is on my radar for next year.
Santa Fe, NM
Karol wanted to give a shout-out to her bike shop: SpinDoc – to Kirk and Chandler, the owners who got her into this mess to begin with!
Finishing the Mt Evans Hill Climb