The Allisons have a full plate, but you wouldn’t guess it, based on their easy-going demeanors. Like many gravel “pros,” Whitney and Zack have a calendar of races stretching from March to October. That’s a lot of training, travel, and racing. That’s just the beginning, though.
Beyond their personal pursuits as athletes, this power couple fills their life with work that contributes to the bike community in their hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, and beyond. Zach runs a bike fit studio. They host ride camps called Gravel Graceland and produce content around their racing program, Bike Sports. Oh, and there’s this little 2,000-person event that they organize in July — the middle of their race season.
For most of us, that would be too much. For the Allisons, the balance of all these pursuits is the reward.
“I think we definitely make it harder on ourselves than we have to sometimes,” says Zack. “But I think the gratification is still overall net-positive, at the end of the season, when we meet all goals that we set for our goals.”
Since they first met, during their college years, their lives have been on the go. They started dating while traveling the country as pro road racers, often sharing host housing and building their relationship amid the ups and downs of the domestic road scene.
If they’d been in their prime about 10 years earlier, they might have strung together fruitful road racing careers, when domestic teams and races had more opportunities (and money) to offer. However, it wasn’t in the cards, and right as Zach and Whitney were each notching solid podium finishes at major races, teams, and events were collapsing.
Then, the COVID pandemic happened, and like many of us, they started to realize the potential gravel had to offer. The time was ripe for them to compose a new approach to their careers, find the right sponsors, create Bike Sports and balance their priorities with Foco Fondo … and explore the dirt roads in their backyard.
“Gravel was kind of a lifesaver in the pandemic because we could go have this new explore-from-your-door adventure in a time that was just really stagnant”wHITNEY
Although 2020 was a catalyst for Bike Sports and their gravel racing ambitions, things had been in motion for a while. Zack started organizing the Foco Fondo in 2015 before it was really considered a “gravel race.”
“It was just a glorified group ride,” says Zack. “I was just a kid, being like, ‘Let’s do a big gravel ride.’ You try to fit 28s in your little road frame — everything just was a little bit ahead of its time.”
And Zack’s first run at Unbound Gravel was in 2017, with his Clif Bar team. That experience helped open his eyes to the potential that this growing form of cycling might hold. Plus, he finished 9th overall — not bad for a road rider who typically thrived in short, fast criterium races.
“It was always a joke that he has potato famine genes, just like able to go hard forever,” says Whitney. “So I guess maybe it wasn’t surprising so much as intriguing because if that’s what it’s like for him, what could it be like for me?”
“I absolutely love being an athlete. It’s the only thing I’ve really ever wanted to be. I’m literally living my dream.”Whitney
Fast-forward to the start of the 2023 season, and Whitney has two fourth-place finishes in the last two editions of Unbound. The Allisons manage a full-blown empire of bike projects: Bike Sports, Graceland Gravel tours, Zach’s bike fitting studio, and of course, the Foco Fondo, which now attracts 2,000 attendees and hosts multiple group training rides in the lead-up to the July event.
Along with striking a balance in their roles with Foco Fondo, the Allisons also shape their racing season to fit this mid-summer commitment. So, their schedule is a little different. Unlike a lot of top gravel riders, they opted out of the Lifetime Grand Prix. Instead, they’ll be at all of the Belgian Waffle Ride Quadruple events. And, they’ll hit up some of their regional favorites, like SBT GRVL and the ENVE GRODEO. Fortunately, unlike their divide-and-conquer approach to event organizing, Zack and Whitney see eye-to-eye on the races they like.
They also thrive off of the pace of busy schedules, multiple projects, and gratification that comes from beyond the race course.
“It’s definitely a similar feeling to finishing a big race,” says Zack “Foco Fondo feels like maybe a little bit more gratification. This year, the lives of 2,000 people will be changed for the better. You gave a good time to that many people. Like, it’s like someone’s birthday and you like buy them dinner … but times 2,000.”