Riding at High Altitude

By Steve Owens, Colorado Premier Training

Denver is 5,280 feet above sea level, and the mountain towns and passes you'll be riding through are as high as 11,318 feet above sea level.

5 high altitude facts you should know:

  1. If you're coming to Colorado from a lower altitude, you should consider arriving a day or two early to acclimate yourself to the altitude. If you arrive on Friday from sea level, drive to the mountains and think you're going to feel good enough to ride the next morning, you are putting your health at risk.

  2. As you move higher in altitude, oxygen and air pressure decrease, making it harder to get air from your lungs into your bloodstream. You might find yourself breathing harder and deeper and your heart beating faster than at home, even when you're not exerting yourself.

  3. There's less water in the air, so you can become dehydrated quicker just by breathing, let alone cycling. Rehydrate yourself by drinking before you're thirsty, and skip the caffeine and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration.

  4. Colorado is known for its sunshine ... and its sunburn. Even on cloudy days, remember to wear at least SPF 30 sunscreen because you are closer to the sun and more likely to get sunburned.

  5. Colorado is also known for unpredictable weather. The Courage Classic has seen everything from 90 degree days to snow on the route... sometimes on the same day. Be prepared by carrying rain gear and warm clothing, such as leg and arm warmers and gloves.

Do not ignore symptoms like headache, mild dizziness, nausea, insomnia and irritability, especially along the route. The Courage Classic has medics at each aid station, as well as riding medics who can call for help if you need it and are in contact with area EMS in extreme cases. Sag wagons are available to carry you and your bike to the next aid station or the Finish Line. If you're feeling bad, don't push it. Stop, rest, drink water or sports drink and try again tomorrow.