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The technical definition of a fondo is a ‘spirited group ride.’
And, if COVID-19 conditions allow, July 25th’s FoCo Fondo should be all of that and more.
2021 marks the event’s sixth year, “or year five, take two,” as co-promoter Whitney Allison puts it. Like practically all participatory cycling races, the Fort Collins, Colorado gravel event was canceled last year, but Allison and her husband, co-promoter Zack, have plans to make 2021 a banner year.
Both professional road cyclists — with Zack still racing for Team Clif Bar and Whitney transitioning to gravel — the Allisons bring years of experience in the cycling world to the Foco Fondo. However, it’s precisely their tenure in the field that has inspired the unconventional vibe of the event.
“Cycling can have this stupid amount of over-done over-curated status events, you can call them corporate or rich events, whatever you want, but they just have a weird vibe to me,” says Zack, founder and co-promoter of the FoCo Fondo. “Our event is us, our amazing partners have a stake in community and cycling beyond money or sales, and our venue is pure fun. If you want to come have a great time on a bike, race, or just an epic supported ride, mark your maps and calendars for July, in Fort Collins.”
Although the Foco Fondo aspires to be fun for all, the Allisons realize that not everyone subscribes to the same definition of the word. They’ve therefore baked just about every option into the event, from a 12-mile kid-friendly route to the 115-mile Bite the Bullet Challenge, the only distance of four that is timed and boasts a $2,000 cash purse for both sexes. Both the 50- and 115-mile distances have Strava segments with cash prizes, and there is also a 25-mile route, as well.
“The reason we chose four distances is that the first two are more family and introductory-focused,” Whitney says. “We’ve been doing a lot of work there, especially with all the folks that have picked up bikes during the pandemic and are like, ‘hey what do I do now?’ We want to keep them on bike moving forward, not just a pandemic habit.”
Furthermore, the event offered 10 BIPOC scholarship entries (which have since been claimed), gives free entry to kids under 12, and has half-price registration fees for teens. For the third year in a row, a portion of the profits will fund after-school bike clubs in the community through Safe Routes to School.
While the Allisons continue to compete at a high level and have some fairly lofty personal goals on the bike (Whitney is gunning for a win at “one of the big ones” in gravel this year), the couple is truly dedicated to the causes of building community and having fun through cycling. The FoCo Fondo is presented under the umbrella of Bike Sports, a company they founded last year.
“We started it to focus on the radness of bikes, community, and fun,” Whitney says.
Both Whitney and Zack will be riding a full gravel season with Bike Sports, but the bread and butter of the company are multi-day vacation style gravel camps. Again, they’ve targeted a market that has often fallen off the radar of other similar promoters.
“These camps are designed not just for cyclists but people who like bikes, are generally fit and want to try that gravel thing they keep hearing about,” Whitney says. “We take them on a three-day adventure that seems absolutely insane to them. We got to do a tiny one last summer between waves of COVID, and it was an absolute blast.”
The camps, called Gravel Graceland, are based in Fort Collins, where a plethora of local bike-friendly businesses have helped to foster the cycling community for years. The Allisons have formed partnerships with many of them, New Belgium Brewing and Brave New Wheel bike shop to name a few, and they play an integral role in complementing both Bike Sports and the FoCo Fondo.
Community, inclusion, competition — the FoCo Fondo sure sounds like a spirited group ride to us.