Question: I live in New Jersey’s flatlands and have become interested in riding Colorado’s Triple Bypass in July. I’m intrigued by the challenge — not the distance as much as the 12,000-foot altitude. Can you give a sea-level rider some pointers? — Lou F.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The Triple Bypass covers 120 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain over three high passes. You’re right that altitude is a major factor because the course climbs to nearly 12,000 feet on Loveland Pass. Nevertheless, many flatlanders ride the event each year and not only survive it but enjoy the experience.
Physiologists tell us that there are two ways to cope with high altitude. Both methods can result in good performances.
- You can arrive three weeks early to acclimate.
- You can arrive just a day or two early and do the ride before your body begins suffering the stresses of high altitude.
Of course, most riders traveling from far away don’t have the first option. Assuming that’s the case for you, here are five keys to making the Triple Bypass fun during your Rocky Mountain high:
- Train for the distance. You need to be comfortable riding 120 miles no matter what the altitude. Riders who are fit do better on any long ride.
- Stay hydrated. Colorado’s dry air will suck the moisture out of you. Begin hydrating as soon as you arrive. Carry a bottle with you at all times. Drink to satisfy your thirst during the ride, too. Many of the ailments that people blame on altitude are really caused by dehydration.
- Don’t go anaerobic. Keep plenty in reserve on every climb. Be sure your bike has sufficiently low gears. If the climbing effort should make you go anaerobic, even for a minute or less, it’s incredibly difficult to recover.
- Use sunscreen. The intense UV rays at 12,000 feet can cause severe burns even if you have a lowland tan.
- Get a checkup. See your doctor for approval if you have any medical problems, especially shortness of breath or respiratory difficulties.