The FoCo Fondo in Fort Collins, Colorado on July 25th met my own gold star standard of gravel events: It was a bike race that didn’t feel like a bike race unless you wanted it to, and only then between the start and finish line. The majority of the time, it felt like a fun, summer weekend hanging out with old- and new bike-related friends.
Or, as L39ION of Los Angeles’ Sam Boardman put it, “it’s all about the community.”
“It’s such a trite phrase now to toss around just because it’s so overused, but it really does feel different at gravel events versus road events where you’re there to compete,” Boardman told me while sitting at the New Belgium Brewery the day before the event. “You’ll hang out with your team, but there’s not this intermingling, no one’s drinking beers before the race. At most gravel events, there really is a sense of community, and you’re helping so many people discover the bike.”
For its sixth edition, the 2021 FoCo Fondo hosted more than 700 people on the gravel roads north and east of Fort Collins and at the event venue on the brewery’s grounds. From the 12 and 25-mile family-friendly routes to the marquee 107-mile Bite the Bullet race, the event had a distance for everyone, and then some.
Lining up at the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. The brewery was a fitting start; it was on a cycling trip through Belgium where New Belgium co-founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch found inspiration to start a brewery back home.
The lead group, before the fierce high desert sun emerged from the clouds. Conditions on the day were perfect; recent rains kept the dust mostly at bay, and a thin cloud cover hid the sun for the first four hours.
Second-place in the women’s race, Jess Cygan of Rodeo Labs Pro Gravel Team climbs up the course’s one timed Strava segment, which came 32 miles into the race.
Anna Kelso of Bike Fort Collins and Alisha Zellner of Bike Ride for Black Lives.
This is northern Colorado.
The 107-mile Bite the Bullet route took in 4,800 feet of climbing, mostly gained through rolling gravel roads to the east and north of Fort Collins.
A truly inclusive event, the FoCo Fondo featured 12- and 25-mile family-friendly rides. A portion of the profits go toward funding after-school programs and summer programs run by Safe Routes to School.
A rare stretch of pavement, early in the day.
It wouldn’t be a bike race in Fort Collins without it.
Whitney and Zack Allison, the co-owners of Bike Sports, which produces the FoCo Fondo, as well as Gravel Graceland gravel experiences.
The women’s podium, from left to right: Hannah Shell, Jess Cygan, Starla Teddergreen, Kristen Arnold, and Ivy Pederson.
Rodeo Labs Pro Gravel team took 1-2 with Greg Daniel and Jonathan Cavner. Ian Anderson was third, and L39ION of Los Angeles’ Freddy Ovett and Sam Boardman rounded out the podium in 4th and 5th.