Gravel cycling is a phenomenon that has been growing exponentially within the cycling world, across disciplines. Road racers, mountain bikers, and recreational riders alike can be found on gravel roads around Northern Colorado in increasing numbers. Dotted across the United States, there is also an increase in the number of gravel cycling events, whether race-focused or adventure-focused. FoCo Fondofest is Fort Collins’ premier gravel event coming up August 3rd. It bridges the gap across the racing-focus and adventure-focused community and seeks to grow the overall gravel ridership with two family-focused routes.
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Open, quiet roads with nothing but the crunch of gravel beneath your tires and the wind in your face. On gravel and dirt roads you can explore and find adventure in the vast expanse of non-paved roads across America. Gravel cycling bridges the gap between so many aspects of cycling, it’s no wonder it’s a growing phenomenon. “Riding gravel is this strange intersection of cycling. You have traditional road cyclists who do most of their riding on smooth surfaces…gravel riding isn’t as technical as mountain biking and expands road options exponentially and offers a lower traffic option, especially in Northern Colorado. Compare that to mountain bikers who may dread needing to get in more endurance miles and would traditionally do that on the road. Gravel gives them another option,” says Whitney Allison, one of the three promoters of the event.
The FoCo Fondofest is run by three current and former professional cyclists: Zack Allison, Jake Arnold, and Whitney Allison. Zack and Jake founded the ride in 2015 after becoming tired of riding the same training routes while preparing for their professional road season. They created the event to showcase the extensive gravel network and not traditionally explored gravel roads Fort Collins offers.
The first two years focused on longer routes: 50 and 100-mile routes, with the longer one called the Bite the Bullet Challenge after the moderately obscure Western film about a horse race, a favorite of promoter Zack Allison. While not a race, the Fondo sought to bridge the gap between adventurists and competitors with Strava segments for cash for the competitive at heart, otherwise; the intention was for riders to enjoy exploration and the adventure at hand. Riders completing the 100-mile route under the promoter-specified time receives a FoCo Fondo-official bolo tie.
2018 saw a shift with Bonfire Effect coming on board as a partner. 12- and 25-mile family-focused routes were added along with a finish festival and the FoCo Fondofest sought to partner with Safe Routes to School as a benefactor. “Our goal is to have kids dragging their parents out to the FoCo Fondo, making them dust off their bikes and remember how much fun it is to explore powered by your own body. We want families to share a physical adventure together if they are able. It’s so easy to get out of the habit of exercise but it’s also easy to make time for it if it’s truly fun. Cycling, and gravel cycling, in particular, is something that everyone can easily do together and explore.” says Whitney Allison.
In 2018, the FoCo Fondofest funded two free after-school bike clubs run by Safe Routes to School. They focused these clubs at lower-income schools where kids were less likely to afford after-school sports programs. Not only does the program offer these kids a fun after-school activity, but also teaches them that the bike can offer transportation, physical activity, and fun.
The 2019 FoCo Fondofest, coming up Saturday, August 3rd, continues expansion with an expected 600 total riders, seeking to addition after-school programs with Safe Routes to School. All four routes are returning with 12, 25, 50 and 100-mile route options with aid stations for refueling and rehydrating and a paid lunch and beverage ticket at the finish festival. All participants must sign up, no matter the age. Kids 12 and under ride for free and teens are half-priced- both category riders are expected to have an adult with a paid entry riding with them. The finish festival at New Belgium’s backlot is expanding with live music, gravel bikes and equipment vendors, live screen-printing from Pine, food from Rio Grande and Walrus Ice Cream and a Strider adventure course for extra young kids. The festival is free to attend and runs noon to 5 pm. Registration and more information can be found at focofondo.com.
Top tier partners include Rebound Sports & Physical Therapy, Bonfire Effect, Scheels- Johnstown, Brave New Wheel, New Belgium Brewing, Scrimshaw Tattoo, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, and Associates of Family Medicine.