CLEAR CREEK COUNTY — Missy Carlisle spent a decade away from the Triple Bypass, which means she had plenty of time to come up with a good excuse not to come back.
She had well over 3,000 days in fact, to think about how much she enjoyed not cranking up Squaw, Loveland and Vail passes, or how much she enjoyed not having to ride west from Georgetown, along a congested I-70. Or just how safer it was to be at home rather than worry if it would rain that July day, or if the winds would be too harsh.
But despite all that, Carlisle, from Castle Rock, rode the Triple Bypass for the third time on Saturday. It has yet to chase her away, even after her hiatus.
“Not yet. Today could do it,” joked the 47-year-old. “I’m 10 years older since the last time I did it, and I can feel the age.”
The aid station at Loveland Ski Area is always a mixture of pleasure and pain. The pleasure comes from the riders having overcome arguably the toughest stretch in the grueling 120-mile bicycle event that is organized by Team Evergreen. They kind of bask in the comfort that the “easier” part looms with the relatively short 4-mile trek up Loveland Pass and on to Vail.
The pain also comes in having overcome arguably the toughest stretch in the race, and the riders stagger in to the gravel parking lot, drop their bikes amid a field of metal-and-rubber horses and move like zombies toward the free watermelon slices and other nourishment.
“Nothing like the Triple,” Carlisle said. “It’s such an accomplishment. It’s one of the hardest of a one-day ride.”
And much like Mount Everest, it’s there. And for many, that’s all the incentive needed.
“It’s just a challenge, I guess,” says Denver rider Jeff Everly, who was on his sixth Triple Bypass.
Everly is sure that the worst stretch lies between Georgetown and Loveland Ski Area. It’s not so much the steep hill just outside of Georgetown, as much as it is the unrelenting climb, headwinds and riding the shoulder of a major highway.
After all that, for Everly, the fun begins.
“Clear sailing,” Everly said of the home stretch of an adventure that begins in Bergen Park and ends in the Vail area.
“It’s up, but you’re putting in an effort that’s not that long,” Steve Ebeling said of the appeal of Loveland Pass. “And when you hit switchbacks, there’s some relief.”
Ebeling, a Superior resident who was riding the Triple Bypass for the fourth time, admitted his worst experience came on Loveland Pass. During a rainy year, he got to the top and was blown into a state of near hypothermia by the high winds, forcing him to prematurely end his day.
There were no such concerns Saturday. The weather was near perfect as packs of riders churned their way up gravity’s playground.
“You know what impresses me?” Ebeling said. “Look at all the different body types. From the littlest women to the biggest guys.”
There appeared to be one common denominator, however — a peaceful look of accomplishment.