The key, they say, is pockets.

Saturday’s Tucson Medical Center El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino del Sol Resort will start in the (relative) chill of sunrise and finish in the heat of the late morning. In between, the event’s 7,000 riders will be heating up, ditching clothes, scarfing food, sipping water, checking vital signs and tracking their speed — all without leaving their bikes.

That’s where pockets — real and improvised — come in. And that’s why cycling gear, built for functionality and speed, is worth every penny.

The Star talked to two El Tour greats this week about what they’re bringing, how it works, and what they can’t live without. Here’s a look at their El Tour gear:

Jo Roberts

She is: The women’s winner of last year’s 75-mile ride at El Tour, and one of Arizona’s best cyclists.

Age: 55

At El Tour: Roberts has won in every El Tour category except for the 104-mile ride. She will take part in Saturday’s 75-miler.

The jersey: “It’s going to be a warm day, thankfully, so you don’t have to gear up too much. I’m going to ride for a team called Ride On Cycling, which is tied to El Grupo. I don’t necessarily have a team.”

Lucky charm: “My good-luck UVex sunglasees. I’ve been riding in these for the last seven years. They just fit right, they’re cool-looking and therefore you must be faster, right? This will be my fourth pair. I’ve spent maybe 5-6 years riding in these.”

The bike: “It’s a Specialized Tarmac from Sabino Cycles. It’s carbon, it’s super-light. It retails for about $6,000.”

Food: “I’m probably gonna take four GUs (energy gel packets) and a flask. I don’t eat as much (as others). For the 75 (miler), I’ll need two bottles. I’ll pack two and hopefully not stop.”

Race tracker: “I’m riding with a Garmin. This will track the cadence and power output and distance; you can then download it onto the computer and track where you’ve been what you’ve been doing. It tracks your training.”

Safety first: “You’ve got to wear your ID band. That way, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, people will figure out where you are and how to contact my son, who won’t answer the phone.”

Brian Forbes

He is: The winner of last month’s Cochise County Cycling Classic’s 95-mile race, the 2012 Tour of the Tucson Mountains and one of Southern Arizona’s top male cyclists.

At El Tour: Forbes, who says he’s ridden in El Tour more than a dozen times, will take part in the 104-mile race.

Age: 43

The bike: “It’s a VeloVie red 10-speed, a little outdaed. It has carbon wheels. VeloVie does direct-to-consumer online sales. This bike, as it sits, you could probably get for $3,500, which is a really good deal. A typical bike is probably like $7,000.”

Race tracker: “Yeah, I’ve got the Garmin. If it’s not on Strava (a time-tracking website), the ride doesn’t count.”

More power: “This is what they call an InfoCrank, made by Verve. It’s a power meter. There are sensors on the inside of the crank, so it tells you how much power you’re putting out. Nowadays, everybody’s gauging their riding power. It’s a better way to gauge your fitness … it (measures) all your power, cadence, speed, everything is done without wires. It’s amazing what they can do nowadays.”

Jersey: “It’s our team kit, the Stone House Group team. It’s a local real estate company that I work with. That’s what I’ll be wearing. On ride morning, I probably won’t wear legwarmers. I’ll use embrocation cream, which basically just heats your legs up. I’ll put a lot of that on.”

Lucky charm: “It’s a plastic pacifier I got three years ago before my son (Liam) was born. Knock on wood, no crashes since then. It’s doesn’t weigh much.”