Altitude won’t kill you just because of the lack of oxygen; it will also dehydrate you. (Many altitude headaches come from dehydration.) As a rough guideline, drink 20 ounces before a day’s ride, 16 to 32 ounces per hour while riding, and 30 to 40 ounces in the evening.
2. Think Winter
Colorado’s weather shifts about as quickly as a politician’s position. “The last time the tour tried to go over Trail Ridge Road, a snowstorm led to what we now refer to as the Mass Sag,” Smith says. So don’t even think about riding without a packable shell, and on high-altitude days, stuff a cap and arm warmers into a jersey pocket.
3. Avoid the Postride Peloton
“When you roll in at the end of the day, don’t lollygag,” counsels Smith. “With 2,000 people vying for services, it’s best to hit the showers immediately, otherwise you might end up in some long lines.”
4. Camp in Style
If you want to sleep in a tent but don’t want the hassles, Sherpa Packer, a Denver-based outfitter for bike and motorcycle tours, will not only rent you a tent, air mattresses, sleeping bags, camp chairs, and cell-phone chargers; they’ll also set up and tear down your site each day (from $400 per week; sherpapacker.com).
5. Savor It
Rather than hurrying, visit the sights and chat with the other riders and volunteers, many of whom come back year after year. It’s Ride the Rockies, not Blow Past Them.