Triple D (Dubuque-Dyersville-Durango), is a run/ski/bike race (individual sports not tri-style) held in Dubuque, Iowa. In its fifth year, the race has become notable for its abominable conditions and the sheer lack of finishers. Focusing on the bike race specifically, the number of people who finished are as follows: 4, 0, 8, 23 (of 25 in a “perfect” year). I personally attended the first three and am proud to say I am one of the ten different individuals to finish, and I can personally attest that this thing is brutal. There are jokes amongst friends that Lance Andre, the race promoter, gets jolly from putting on races that people can’t finish; it makes him smile. Though the race results weren’t confidence inspiring people continued to sign up and numbers continued to grow. This year there were 67 participants preregistered for possibly the most painful ride of their lives, and they all knew it. A significant number of racers were on fat-bikes though a few still tempted fate on lesser width tires. From the first race where, if I recall correctly, there were seven Pugsleys to this year with 50+ fatties representing almost a full run of options including the Fandango fat tandem that Ben Witts from Milltown Cycles brought, the growth of this winter race and fat-bike culture was undeniable.
The race headquarters at the Grand Haven hotel. This is also the place of the start and finish areas. Racers gathered around behind an old brewery chatting and comparing bikes. The overall feel of the race is much more of adventure and personal testing than racing. As has been the case in past years, a select group races each other, and everyone else sees just how far they really can go. For many riders this race marked the longest snow ride they had ever attempted; possibly their longest ride ever on a fat-bike. Lance led a SLOW neutral roll through the winding roads of Dubuque. Through the bike paths and roads the group rolled forward until we reached a snow covered bike path. This path has wrecked havoc in past years with its choppy frozen snow, but this year was different. There was a nice layer of powder that just smoothed things over, and the edges had packed down snow that was fairly fast. IMMEDIATELY Drew Wilson, eventual winner, took off from the group. No one really followed and soon he was gone. Triple D runs you through a mix of snowmobile trails, open field on private land, gravel, and the Heritage Trail which, by summer, is a pea gravel type trail. We single filed through the beginning sections as eventually a group of five of us sat in front with everyone else not straggling far off.
Lance described the next section as a “mile from Hell”, and to a snow BIKER he isn’t too far off. There were steep hills and loose snow to boot. Certain sections gaining 500 feet of elevation over a half mile. The hiking can be very draining and can lead to cramping in the calves in you aren’t careful. Early in the race nobody was feeling too vigorous so the hike was a slow steady one. The route followed the roadway and snowmobile trails until it enters some familiar private land that has been a part of previous races. The land has a wide mix of long downhills and equally long uphills with snowmobile bridges over fences, creek crossings, and variable snow. This section forces many of the racers to walk their steed through the snow, and can quickly frustrate even seasoned veterans. One of the worst aspects is that once a racer gets off of their line many times the next place that they can remount and ride is 50 feet away. The walking can also accelerate the chilling of riders toes, adding to the argument for winter boots and flat pedals as opposed to the clipless alternative. After plodding through the field, sanctuary is found on pavement for the only real stretch in the entire race. This allowed time to drink and eat before hitting the highlight of the race in my opinion. The level “B” road that you get to ride is one of the most fun roads I have had a chance to ride. This is level “B” at its best. Now I know some people don’t know what a Minimum maintenance, or level “B” road is, but generally it is a road that has fallen out of use and I best compare them to jeep trails. After the downhill it was less then a mile until the Heritage trail.
The Heritage trail it basically straight and flat, though thankfully heading home is the more gradual downhill. A group of five were out front and the next five bounced around in different positions. Hitting some exposed gravel and a tail-wind really upped the pace and saw my speedometer hover around 16.5 mph (not bad with four psi). The gravel trails and short trail sections led everyone into Dyersville to the checkpoint at Chad’s Pizza. Chad’s greeted us with a table of Gatorade, Powerade, and water. On top of that there was a buffet that included: pizza, soup, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, broasted chicken, corn, and probably other things. I myself indulged by having a plate of pizza and chicken followed by another plate of the same. The first plate was so good I just had to have more. Slamming a Gatorade I headed back out the door after chatting, checking in with my girlfriend, and changing some clothes in the restaurant. I had packed an extra base layer and pairs of socks in my Revelate saddlebag which came in handy. The ride back is never as easy as it should be.