Words by Anthony Boussetta / Photos by Riley Seebeck, Anthony Boussetta & friends
Three years ago, I first learned about the Triple Crown and immediately decided to do it. It was a Tuesday I remember well. If you live on the North Shore in Vancouver, you probably know what the Triple Crown is, but I'll explain it briefly for those of you that don't. It's a challenging route that starts and ends at sea level and climbs to the top of Cypress Mountain (920m / 3018 feet), Grouse Mountain (1230m / 4035 feet) and Seymour Mountain (1020m / 3346 feet). The route is mostly on singletrack trails and while you have to start and end at sea level and climb all three mountains, many itineraries are possible and so it's up to you to choose your route.
That being said, the route is usually done from east to west and it’s about 80kms (50 miles) long. If you do the math, that's a bit over 3000m elevation, or just about 10,000 feet.
I didn’t know what route to choose or whether to do it on a road bike or a mountain bike. I’d never done a ride that long before on either bike. So as smart as I am, my next sentence I said was:
When the hike-a-biking is such a serious undertaking you need to pad your bike.
Four days later, with no specific training or preparation, I achieved my goal. It was a big accomplishment for me at the time. I felt like the road ride was really simple though and nowhere near as demanding than the mountain bike portion.
Since my passion is mountain biking I decided that I had to do the Double Triple on the mountain bike only. The following year, I invited a few friends on each segment. My friend Riley Seebeck (@flowphoto_co
) came over to document the ride and shoot some awesome pictures. I was much more organized for this ride, my girlfriend at that time drove Riley around to shoot photos and set up food stations and water refills. Super luxurious.
As I started up the second mountain of the day, my friend David asked me: "You’ll be doing this segment three times?"
"No mate... I’ll do it twice. It’s a Double Triple."
“Oh, you’ll only do it twice, ok... sick.”
The "only" resonated in my head right away... “What? Twice is not enough? I guess not!"
Let’s take a break here.
Why do you ride bikes? It’s so fun, eh? I know! But is it just about having fun slashing berms and loam and riding steep slabs? To be more fit? To get muddy? To see your friends? To get the dog out? To have a beer, a burger, a baguette or a good croissant as a reward? Or to escape your daily routine or things that life throw at you? You’re right, it’s a bit of everything.
And how big of a ride do you want or need to do? What’s a big ride anyway? 30km? 1000m of climbing? 2000m?
Racing, riding, digging, sessioning to get better, jumping, riding the steepest trails possible... I did it all and I loved it. I was always stoked to ride my bike and always had a big smile when I was riding.
But for many years I also used it as an escape to things in my life. I never worked on those life things. I was forcing them away when I headed out riding. I'd divert the focus to riding instead of problem or a situation that needed resolving. It worked well until I reached a point last year, where it didn't work out anymore.
For the first time in 20 years, I wasn't having fun riding bikes. I tried getting out more on the moto, snowboarding, skateboarding, seeing friends, but it didn’t counterbalance how I was inside and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this dark hole.
I rode less and less. Everything got darker: friendships, my relationship, work, health… There are many personal reasons and this is not the place and time to talk about that. Let's just acknowledge that it was a dark time, it will help you understand why I wanted to do a big ride so badly this year.
There are many ways to deal with that kind of situation. You can wait and see what happens. Or you can act and try to do something about it. Eventually, I did act. It was a bit too late unfortunately, but better late than never as they say. Being aware and accepting the issue was already a big part. Then, I also needed to change things for me, around me, for people around me, and aim to be better. I work well with challenges and I instantly knew this challenge would be my rebound! It would bring me what I’d need and use it as a fresh start alongside all the other work I was doing on myself and for my mental health.
As for the challenge, that word “only” kept coming back to me through. "Only" climbing up each one of the North Shore mountains twice.
Why that number? It sounded good even though I had no idea if my watch would go up to 10,000 meters and I had no clue if I could make it either. Also, I didn’t like the idea of the Everest thing much.
If you know me, you know I don’t train. You know I don’t look much at my nutrition. And I also hadn't ridden much for over a year. I generally eat pretty well, but these last months I didn’t sleep much, didn’t eat much, wasn’t clear in my mind…
But I just love that unknown feeling of pushing your mind and body to achieve what you want. Would that be enough to make this ride possible?
The Triple Triple ride would be unsupported. No one would bring me anything. I made a huge amount of food - 20 regular potatoes, some yams, a full chicken and four noodle packs. I then made three boxes with all the food that I’d leave at the bottom of each mountain. I also made six massive burritos. You may be surprised at what I put in those burritos, but my goal was to have calories and sugar and protein and carbs... all at once! I also had loads of good bars, although no fruits and no veggies since I didn't want too much fibre as I'd be riding for 40 hours!
I drew a “map” of my itinerary with an approximate timeframe. It looked more like a 6-year-old's drawing than a map to be honest, but I posted it on a WhatsApp group I created with some friends and told them the ride.
I planned to start at midnight Friday night.
I parked a car at Horseshoe Bay near Cypress Mountain with food and supplies. I left a box of food and a piece of foam in the forest at the bottom of Grouse Mountain and then I loaded my bike on my motorbike's bike rack with the two bags full of food and lights and clothes... and a bit of water of course!
I was so excited that I was at the start two hours early!
I decided to start from Deep Cove and go west for my first Triple, doing Cypress, then Grouse, then Seymour.Seymour Mountain - First Mountain
I share my position live on the WhatsApp group and invite friends to join me if they want.
I take a picture at Deep Cove and it’s on. I don’t even realize what I’m doing at the moment. I don’t realize that I’m going for the biggest ride I’ve ever done. The biggest I’ve ever heard of anyone around me trying to do. The longest time on the saddle!
I start my music and make my way up to the top of Seymour along the road. It’s so dark. I only use my headlamp on the way up to save the battery on my bike lights. I don’t need to see much going uphill. It;s just me and my bear bell.
I arrive at the top of Seymour in 2 hours. I’m exactly on schedule. One negative point though - my knees hurt already! Not a good sign. I crashed three days earlier on both of my knees, without knee pads. One knee is swollen, the other one pretty bruised. I'd just added another layer to my challenge.
The weather is nice. Not too cold, not too hot. Time to ride down. What’s better to start a long ride than a nice trail? I start heading down CBC to TNT and Cambodia. This trail has seen some awesome work this past year. Thanks builders! But it’s more demanding than you think when your goal is to pace yourself and save energy. On my way down. I’m already thinking that I won’t ride this trail on my last triple in 30 or so hours.
I ride every feature, but not too fast. One light on the handlebar and one headlamp on my helmet isn’t enough to send it, just enough to ride all features safely. I finish with Bottletop down and I arrive at the Fisherman’s Bridge around 1am.
One mountain down! It’s so calm and quiet. It’s me, my bike, the mountains, nature, all my thoughts...and the animals. Grouse Mountain - Second Mountain
Onto Grouse Mountain. To make sure I would have the elevation needed, I decided to go to the chairlift next to the windmill at the very top of Grouse. If you know the area, you know it’s mega steep there, around 30%. I called it "free elevation" because it’s so steep over such a short distance. You climb 130m (426 feet) in 650m (2132 feet), a lot in a short time period.
The view from the top of Grouse Mountain at night is incredible! I sit in the chair at the top and look at it. Remember the goal is not to go fast, it is to complete the ride and find my way to myself as well. I head down Jetboy, a really, really steep trail. In the wet it was slippery but fun! And fast! Two mountains down. Cypress Mountain - Third Mountain
I head to Cypress Resort through the British Properties and the sun is coming up slowly. What a splendid sunrise! The climb up goes easily and I ride Sagar on my way to Horseshoe Bay. It’s daylight and I really enjoy that trail, but I need to save energy so I’m not sending it. What a treat riding it alone early morning!
At the bottom of Sagar, my awesome friend Ales joins me. I'm so stoked! I met him when I arrived in Canada 8 years ago. Since then we have stayed really close friends. The Reverse Triple Crown
After a food break for me from one of my food boxes, I change and we ride down to Horseshoe Bay, to pedal back up to Cypress. Again. Onto the second Triple Crown. The Reverse Triple Crown I call it. I like this way more than the classic way, probably because of the hike a bike part!
From the Trans Canada highway to the top of Cypress is the steepest climb you can get. But it’s efficient! It's not my first time pedaling up that way. We arrive at the top and I decide we will ride Mystery DH to Stupid Grouse all the way down the highway. Remember, I want that elevation! These trails are way more downhill, more open, faster. So fun.
Just before arriving to the Capilano Dam, I see a familiar face: Cynthia Young! She’s so strong on a bike and does so much for the community with the NSMBA as well, I was really happy she came for this ride. She still comes on the hike-a-bike on her gravel bike, with her gravel kit, and roadie shoes!
That's my route. I hike-a-bike the BCMC that parallels the Grouse Grind. I love that segment as it’s pretty physical, direct, efficient and well, it’s not a real bike ride if you don’t hike a bike! I do have a trick for that though, as I use a piece of foam between my shoulders and the top tube! I mean it’s not every day you hike a bike up 850m over 2.4kms. It’s a succession of steps, roots, rocks. And it’s not as busy as Grouse Grind.
We got all kind of questions on repeat: What are you doing here with your bike? Are you going to ride down here? Why are you going up here? Why not taking the gondola? Is that the first time you’re doing this? Was hiking up not hard enough that you carry your bike as well? Are you lost?
At some point, we start answering a bunch of crazy answers, nothing serious at all. That has us laughing all the way up and was one of the highlights of the whole ride. I'm stoked that Cynthia has joined me for this segment! We talked about everything and anything. Life, bikes, troubles, rides, relationships, how to carry a bike, what are the best shoes to climb up, why people walk down the Grouse Grind, everything!
An hour and a half later, we're at the lodge. Cynthia rides down the road while I continue up to the windmill where I eat another one of those massive wraps!
Time to ride down! On the way down I meet three other friends : Jan, “New Guy” and Mike. We rallied down 7th Secret to Expresso to Lower Expresso without much stopping. They feed me with a banana and sugary treats! They follow me to the bottom of Seymour and then go back home.
I know that the hardest part is coming. Two Seymours in a row will leave some tired legs! It's the hardest part, mentally. The Third Triple Crown - 36+ Hours In
Seymour is steep. I go up the power line. If you know, you know. The sun is going down. It gets dark and colder. I haven’t slept in about 36 hours now. I eat the last wrap I have while watching the sunset. It's peaceful and at the same time, a bit stressful.
When I arrive on the road, I start to hit a really hard part. My knees are so painful I struggle to walk or stand up. But I also couldn’t sit because I forgot to use chamois cream! I don't use a chamois, but for a ride this long I should have used chamois butter. So yeah, it's quite painful to sit at this time!
This is exactly that part of the ride I was waiting to fight in my mind. That part where my mental game needs to be strong! Where quitting wouldn’t even come to my mind, but finding the solution and the will to move forward through the pain.
I won’t lie, it was hard. But at no time I thought about stopping.
To overcome this ride would be huge. I felt like not finishing this ride and failing would have really bad consequences for me. I couldn’t afford to fail. It was not an option as I couldn't take more negativity.
The power of the mind was stronger than my body! It was great to experience that zone! I don’t hit it often, but I love it when I do. I do not give up. Anything. It may take time but I will do it! I’ll do my best.
This ride was to prove me I’m not a failure in everything. It was doing it to prove myself I can go over the pain (mentally and physically) to be better and act better and go further!
I make it to the top of Seymour. The moon is really lighting the night but I'm really tired. I decide to lay down and nap for 15 minutes. I start a timer and sleep on the floor of the washroom. When you’re tired, you don’t care where you are! I fall asleep and wake up with the alarm. I snooze it for another ten minutes and then wake up freezing! I completely forgot to wear all the clothes I had with me. After warming up with push ups, I decide to ride down to Deep Cove.
I arrive at Deep Cove stoked! The Third Triple Crown - 24+ Hours In
Two Triple Crowns done in a little over 24 hours.
It's 3am. I change, put on a chamois and eat a lot of food! And then I get the idea - there is a gas station open!!! I hope they will have what I need. I approach the employee at the cash door and ask him if he has Vaseline. It's 3 am and you ask a gas station employee Vaseline! Weird!
They had it and it was the best $4 I spent on that ride. I used ¼ of the tube in the chamois and get ready for Seymour!
I'm so slow. I'm pedaling slow, not straight at all. I'm imagining a nice warm bed. I tell myself if I reach the Baden Powell parking lot, I can take a nap. I sleep right on the side of the road, leaving the headlamp on next to me and the rear light on my bike on. I put on all my clothes which is not really enough for comfort and put an alarm for 1 hour. I need a break! I sleep but get woken up by every car driving by next to me on the road.
After 30 minutes, I wake up and decide to start again. I continue my way up. And at this moment again, I started thinking. I let the thoughts of my actions coming through, I work with them, I analyze some, I don't push feelings away. It’s like meditating... while pedalling. It brings some light. It also bringst me some fun as I am enjoying doing this ride. That’s the kind of moment I was searching.
After that, I also start using Instagram and Facebook. I see so many messages and answers to my stories. I was so surprised! Really! You can’t imagine how good it felt seeing the answers and all the messages cheering for me through this crazy ride. I chatted with some while pedalling up and it made the uphill easier! I thank you all for that support you gave me! Keep your mind busy, think positive and you’ll make it up. Even when you clearly hate this moment! I did hate it for a few minutes. I hated that climb! But I knew I’d love to be up there and will consider it done once I was there.
Sunday, 8am. 7500m up and 190kms. I only have 2 mountains left! This night has been a long one and clearly the hardest part. It took me forever to climb Seymour twice in a row, but it is behind me now. I left my knees behind me as well.
Time to ride down. I decided to head down Dale’s. I forgot how demanding that trail is. This is a classic in the BCBR North Shore edition. It's a technical trail, full of rocks and janky moves. It fits great in my ride.
I arrive down at the bottom and go get a coffee. I might drink 5 coffees a year maximum. When I do, I’ll stay awake for hours and get a crazy boost! I make the best cocktail ever, a double espresso, a Coke, some ibuprofen and a pain killer pill.
Time for a third time up Grouse Mountain!
I have so much energy that I don't stop at all until the top of the windmill. No breaks. I get passed by a small kid though at some point who was reaching for his dad to get a pull. I want to ask the dad to pull me too.
I arrive on top of Grouse and look at Seymour to my left and Cypress to my right. I know I'm going to reach my goal and it's a good feeling. Although, to make sure I have enough elevation to make my 10,000 meters goal, I decide to ride down from the windmill to the lodge... and back up again. A bonus mini lap.
I rode Jetboy a day and half ago, in the dark, in the wet. I want to enjoy this one now and so I decide to “race” the segment, non-stop, from the lodge. Let me tell you, it’s a long one, a really steep one and my brakes were working hard.
Anthony with his 170-165mm travel Rocky Mountain Altitude that he rides in Position 4 with an Assegai Double Down Max grip front tire and a DHF rear tire. With Cushcore Pro front and rear, this is not your classic XC bike.
At the Capilano Dam, I meet my friend Sean with another espresso! Oh man.. two espressos, I'll start to climb trees!
Time for the last climb. I enjoyed this one a lot. I told Sean I’ll surely have to stop many times because I’ll get tired, and we’ll go slow, but that never happened. The two coffees were what I needed, and some more bars. We reach Cypress Resort with Mike who joined us on the way. That was it. I just climbed 9 mountains, mostly solo with my thoughts and my will, my motivation. Lots of food and water and two knees that were crying. It’s never completely done until it’s done though so I didn’t celebrate anything until the end of the last trail of the day.
I told them at the top that we'd ride slowly and I’d take breaks since I didn't want to crash. I did one corner and jumped into a slab, jumped the next compression, pedaled and smashed the two turns hard and was like "It’s ON !!! No breaks, this is so siiiiick!"
I never rode Sagar that fast. Ever. Sean told me he couldn’t keep up and didn’t understand how it was possible. I rode some sections death grip. I think I was so stoked at this time, a lot of euphoria, adrenaline. The mix was the perfect combination of everything I was missing in the last year. I felt like on a cloud riding down and connected to my bike.
Almost at the bottom, we caught a group of DH riders, we chatted briefly and then party trained down. I didn’t understand how I could still ride that fast. I arrived on the last log ride, the last 100m of the trail. I came up on it so fast. I wanted to euro turn on it but I overturned and had to jump off the log into the middle of rocks and ferns. I think on a regular day, I would have ate shit. This time, I just rode it out like nothing.
That ride proved to me I’m strong and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish my goals! It may seem only a physical goal, but to me, it proved me I can set the bar high on the mental part, on myself and will achieve it. No matter what. It may be late for some part of my life, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be good from now!
The DH guys were stoked to see me there and share the last bit with me. They said it inspired them to go try something bigger, maybe a Triple Crown as well. That was my goal as well. If I can inspire you to think about going for a bigger ride than usual, I’ll consider it a big win as well. If I can bring some lights on the mental healing part doing this kind of ride, I will be really stoked. If you want to talk about your ideas with me, I’d be honoured.
I ride to Horseshoe Bay to officially finish the ride.
260kms. 10,533m climbed. 20,328 calories burned.
A huge load of good memories. Some pain I’ll remember, but won’t focus on. I wanted to make sure my knees and legs were ok when I finsihed so I decided to do a pistol squat on each leg! Done. And I didn't even cramp. No cramps at all for the whole ride. I nailed the nutrition with good amount of food and drink. Even though I didn’t sleep I felt good.
This is it. What I needed. I reached down into myself and explored a bit. I really wanted to see the connections in my body and mind. And how it works all together. That was a really good experience. You don’t need to go for that big of a ride to experience it, just set something you really want to do. Or talk about it with your friends. Challenging yourself is a great way to move forward, in many aspects. I wish I’d have been doing some changes before, but now that I’m aware of it and work towards a better version, I’m really looking forward to see where it brings me.
I received a lot of nice messages after that ride. I didn’t do that to be known as the crazy Frenchman doing monster rides. If I can bring some awareness to depression, while being better myself, I’ll consider it an honour and the best reward. It’s not over, it’s never over. There is so much to learn. It’s endless! I’m in no way giving lessons, I just wanted to share my experience. I don’t want to bring attention to me but I hope this can help someone or make them look inside themselves.
I can’t name you all here, but thanks to all the people who helped me Ales, Cynthia, Sean, Ash, Julia, New Guy, Jan, my mum, etc. You know who you are. Thanks Darren and Kelli at Endless Biking as well for everything. I’m really happy to be part of this amazing bike community. Biking isn’t everything, but it brings us so much.
After that challenge, I received many messages about what's next. My next step is to continue to be happy and enjoy everything. To be stoked with what I'm doing and how I do it. It’s getting there. This ride helped alongside the learning process beside it.
After that? You bet I already have other challenges in my mind! See you next year... Who’s coming with me?