This weekend is serving up a bounty of bike racing, from the end of the men’s Tour de France to the start of the women’s (!) to US mountain bike nationals in Colorado to The Rift gravel race in Iceland.
On Sunday, in the university town of Fort Collins, Colorado, a totally different type of bike event is going down, one that truly unites both riders and the local community.
The FoCo Fondo, brought to you by Bike Sports, returns to Fort Collins for the seventh year on Sunday. Year after year, the event’s owners Zach and Whitney Allison have continued to build upon the event’s strong ties to the local community, while also encouraging every stripe of rider to come out and play.
While the Allisons are both professional bike racers in their own right, the pointy end of the race is but a mere footnote in the weekend of events. In fact, Whitney Allison says that celebrating bicycles and their impact on people and communities is the real headliner of the FoCo Fondo.
“Bikes are so intersectional, you can consume them for transportation, exercise, and/or adventure,” she says. “Between my own bike racing and serving on the Bicycle Advisory Committee for the City of Fort Collins, you really get exposed to the full gamut of bike consumption and it really makes you see them in a shifted light and beyond your own experience.
“FoCo Fondo still very much has the aspects to support those looking for competition against others or time, but at the end of the day, it’s all of us gathered around, drinking Fat Tire, listening to live music, swapping stories of our adventure via the bike, and offering a hell-yeah high five to each other.”
Here are some of the ways that the FoCo Fondo (registration is still open, but less than 150 spots remain!) is putting gravel into the community, and, the community into gravel.
The FoCo Fondo returns in 2022 with five routes, making race day accessible to all types of riders. The 145-mile Triple Dog I Dare You route is new this year and joins the 102-mile Double Dog Dare You, 53-mile Dare You, 32-mile Here For It, and 12-mile Safe Routes to School Family Ride.
This year, the FoCo Fondo provided 20 scholarships -- covering both housing and race entry -- to BIPOC athletes. Fat Tire is helping to cover the cost of several houses via Ride for Racial Justice -- this will include RFRJ’s own program athletes and a few of the existing scholars who need housing.
2022 also sees an expansion for non-binary initiatives. Fat Tire has added a matched prize purse of $3000 for the non-binary category for the 145-mile Triple Dog Dare you route. This brings the total prize purse to $9000 across the men's, women's, and non-binary category and split between Top 5 riders in each category.
In addition, FoCo Fondo offered a Non-Binary Entry Program for 2022 complete with housing from Fat Tire. This program partnered with non-profit Stamina Racing Collective and local athlete Bethel Steele to create a welcoming space for these athletes to come to FoCo Fondo, engage with other non-binary athletes and the broader cycling community.
“I know from my own experience as a professional on the road where women’s teams were chronically underfunded how meaningful the support of housing can be and can be straight up cost prohibitive,” Whitney says. “I also like how these houses can be a gathering space and I’m excited to see how these orgs take advantage of that! These two organizations are doing such incredible work, and I’m excited to connect them with housing and entries to honor their work.”
The FoCo Fondo has a volunteer to earn-an-entry program, including volunteering for a 2022 entry. It’s a flexible program that aims to showcase volunteers as indispensable and provide a little ownership into making FoCo Fondo an event for all people involved.
FoCo Fondo offers free kids entries (with an accompanied adult) and half-priced teens. FoCo Fondo also donates to Safe Routes to School, with its particular funds going to fund after-school bike clubs at Fort Collins’ most underfunded schools. Safe Routes get full reins on the funds, so money has also been used to bring mechanics to apartment complexes to fix up kids’ bikes there, give one-on-one lessons to new immigrant kids on routes to take to school on their bike, and buy helmets for kids who need them.
“They know how to utilize a dollar for the biggest impact and I love getting to hear the stories,” Whitney says.
Nearly 40 percent of the 2022 FoCo Fondo registrants are women. There is an equal prize purse across genders, and the event hosted a women’s training ride earlier this spring.
Another unique initiative added this year, partially in part to help address the dearth of women at gravel races, is childcare services for the day of the race.
Throughout the spring, FoCo Fondo offered no-drop, all levels training rides. According to Whitney, “the free training rides really aim to support all riders. We’ve had a lot of riders who have never ridden in a group before these. With FoCo Fondo we really want to see people redefine their comfort zones, push their limits but also be able to laugh at themselves when it doesn’t work out and have a blast in the process … to take ownership of their adventure.”
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