It’s amazing things always conspire to make Triple D so difficult, in 2008 we had -25df wind-chill, in 2009 we had 9” of fresh powder over a inch of ice the night before the race, and this year we had 6-8” of fresh snow two days before and -20 wind-chill at the start, but the day would peak at 12 dF and drop back to -25 dF wind-chill by the time the Frozen Satel checked in. Optimistically the route was modified at the last minute to make use of more heavily traveled snowmobile trails in hopes of someone finishing the event this year…
The race started it its normal fashion on scenic Dubuque brick streets of the warehouse district, then up Washington street with a winter version of the tour as bikers split around the many traffic circle (some over), then onto the City of Dubuque paved heritage trail. The paced roll-out ends as we cross Peru road entering the virgin snow that sent everyone surging their heart rate to the attic as speeds approached 5 mph in a barley rideable 1.5 mile section of the route. This section would prove to be just as challenging on the way back as it was potholed and just as difficult to keep the bike on the thin line of prior tires.
After a short but fun section of trail that parallels Highway 52 we entered the main part of the Dubuque County Heritage trail, and to everyone’s surprise were fast and easily ridable even by the crazies (Devon and Justin) that showed up on a tandem. As the next couple of miles clicked away I’m sure nearly everyone was thinking “I’m going to finish this year as average speeds for all were between 7-12 mph. but the Pugs where not going to take top placement as the 29’ers were dominating the race (I was riding next to Ben Shockey who was clipping along easily on his SS 29 at I would guess 10-20% less effort) with the exception of Dennis Grelk who rode away from me with ease with Corey Kronser in tow. Dennis would lead nearly 2/3’rds of the race.
GROOOOOMER! That and a couple explicates were heard about an hour 45 into the event, you see a groomed trail is nice if has had time to setup; about an hour for skiers, 2 hours for pugs and runners and about 3 for standard bikes, but freshly groomed snow is VERY difficult to ride and makes it very difficult to read the most efficient line on the trail, making the front runners to resort to moving from side to side searching for the lowest rolling resistance… but we degrees, a lot, this point in the race the dynamics changed, I went from thinking I’m going to finish Triple D to I might have a chance to take 1st or 2nd and I knew the race would come down to Dennis and myself who were the two fastest pugs riders… It took me about another hour until I relied in the last remaining 29’er from the front group leaving Just Dennis in the front.
Trails were very difficult to ride, snow was soft and large amount of effort went to maintaining a straight line and avoiding any bounce on the very low pressure that I running (about 4-6 at that time). At the Farley tunnel I got a time check of 15 Minutes back from Dennis, I had decided that I had to close this gap by Dyersville so that he wouldn’t have the sociological advantage of the large lead at the one place we would see each other. This section of the course would suit me as it was into a 10-15 mph head wind and I could get down on my aerobars and crank it out, my average speed increased from 7 mph to about 14. I was able to get within about 2 at the check point at Dyersville and left only about 20 seconds back.
Dennis again cranked a supper human effort… even though I was again turning out a 12-14 mph pace my heart rate alarm was continually going off, so I had to resort to staying about 2-3 minutes back. It wasn’t until inside the Farley tunnel that I was able to overtake Dennis… we would hold this placement for about the next hour, the trail conditions weren’t improving as most of us had hoped they would, Dennis and I had stopped a couple of times to drop tire pressure even more, I ended up dumping about half down to about 2-3 (I would ride this pressure to the finish). As I neared Graf (hour 4:40) about the 2/3rd’s mark in the race) I saw a surrealistic sight… “is that the groomer again?” please tell me it isn’t… but it was, this time the trails were even softer than before, I had to ride with “kid gloves” turning a big gear very carefully riding a harder section of the surface 1-3 inches from the edge of the trail. The race continued like this until Sundown mountain ski resort where the snowmobiles had packed the trail and riding returned to a somewhat normal base.
After a quick minute at the optional Handel Bar Bike Checkpoint (restaurant and bar in Durango) I hastily headed back out as I knew Dennis was close behind and would not stay but a second as well. The section of trail from Durango to the Sageville/Dubuque Trailhead was worse than expected and speeds were some of the slowest of the day for me… but the entering the outskirts of Dubuque while still daylight was a relief, and sprits were high until I had to deal with the rutted and potholed 1.5 miles of virgin trail (the city of Dubuque doesn’t plow it but doesn’t allow snowmobiles on it either). All in all, I had a good day without any mechanical issues (thanks to Bill Stoffel – my personal machinist for some custom parts and the mechanics a Free flight). I finished first in the ultra bike category at 6 Hours and 48 minutes; Dennis stepped in just minutes back.
It was nice to finally finish my own race after three years and to win it was just great. The winter weather in the Midwest can be so unpredictable, then add to that 63 miles of off-road trails, clothing issues, hydration issues, stolen and moved route markers, a race director who lives in Florida, footwear, then a bicycle with numerous failure points, just starting a race like Triple D is a huge undertaking, I’d like to thank all of you that attended the Triple D and raced with me, I truly appreciate all of you, why else would I torture you like this?