By Sarah Rutherford
To say I’m not a morning person is an understatement. Getting out of my cozy cocoon of bed to face another day of adulting is a slow, slow process. My distaste of mornings is one of the main reasons why my triathlon career dwindled into nothingness because having to warm up at 5 am just wasn’t happening. The only thing that gives me hope is the cup of coffee my husband bribes me with every day, so when he told me we had to be up at 4:45am for the Triple Bypass, I groaned in loathing.
I was a Triple Bypass virgin and was thrilled when I was offered the chance to ride it. Like a lot of things in my world, I commit with gusto but the closer I get to the said commitment I start to second guess my decision. 120 miles and three mountain passes is a hell of a long ride. Just thinking about Squaw Pass and its stupid false flats makes my legs ache and lungs burn.
This year was the 30th anniversary of the Triple and the organizers offered a 75- and 30- mile ride option for the first time that seemed a bit more palatable for recreational cyclists. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to pick a shorter route. I’m a solid mid-distance rider so the 75 felt like the perfect length for me. I have a feeling Triple Bypass purists have something to say about this. I get it, the original is definitely a right of passage on the Colorado cycling scene as a barometer for personal grit and tenacity. However, cycling is a team sport whether it’s a pro group or just the tribe on bikes you surround yourself with. The shorter ride options definitely help foster a supportive cycling culture and social inclusiveness in a sport that is often seen to be filled with pretentious rich white guys.
With perfect weather forecasted for the entire day, I rolled out of Georgetown at 7:30 already feeling like a winner for being ready that early. Larry Grossman was getting everyone hyped up, the volunteers seemed totally pumped to be out on the course, riders were excited, and the overall air of the event was relaxed but well coordinated. For the first 18 miles it felt like I had the entire course all to myself; no bottlenecks or crowds pushing my pace. It gave me the chance to really take in my surroundings and sit with the appreciation in what I was doing. The views from Loveland Pass had never looked more amazing than they did that morning.
With the Tour de France as inspiration, in my mind I felt like I danced up all the climbs and descended like a beast taking solace in that Squaw Pass hadn’t punched me in the face from the start and I just didn’t have that far to go. Flying into Avon I became a part of a mini peloton being led by the strongest 60-something-year old guy I think I’ve ever met. He was an absolute monster training for a time trial the following weekend. I was just thrilled to be getting to lunch faster. He said that he enjoyed helping other riders and proceeded to tell me about how he participates in the Senior Games every year and that you can do it until you die. That’s one thing to look forward to in one’s Golden Years.
Across-the-board, the best part of the day was sitting in the ProBike Express shuttle heading down the hill listening to the chatter of the other participants. It started out with a question, “Did you do the full?” After talking to several “full” veterans who were covered in salt and sitting gingerly on the bench seats, not one of them said they had a really great time. It felt like they were looking at me with eyes filled with envy at my shorter ride and that I got in early enough to eat lunch AND make my shuttle. Yes, they felt they had accomplished something big but none of the adjectives they used to describe their ride convinced me to do the longer version. We all saw pretty much the same thing, ate the same thing, and experienced the same thing, so why do 45 extra miles make that group superior to the others?
Pretty soon the conversations turned to future summer plans and who was going to win The Tour, and progressed even further to low mumbles as people started to nod off. The sun was getting low in the sky and I was in that sweet spot of “just tired enough.” We passed Copper Mountain and I watched cyclists still coming up the hill and all I could think was, “why didn’t you do a shorter version?” In the end, the Double Bypass was totally worth waking up for. I think I’ve found my new favorite ride.