Welcome to Gravel Graceland
By Whitney Allison
Whitney Allison is a long-time American professional road cyclist. After several years with Colavita Pro Cycling and Hagens Berman Supermint, she signed with our own ButcherBox Pro Cycling team to race in 2020. In addition to a career on the road, Whitney loves gravel adventures and is an entrepreneur. Bike Sports, her most recent venture, seeks to make gravel riding more accessible, inspire cyclists to challenge their limits, and highlight Northern Colorado as a travel destination. She joins us today to share how she has turned stay-at-home orders and a cancelled race season into some big gravel adventures that you’re now invited to join.
When the pandemic hit full force, I was on the road for my first USACRITS race with ButcherBox Pro Cycling. Suddenly the pandemic – which had seemed so far away in Seattle when it first landed in America – was now seemingly everywhere and made the travel home feel reckless. In fact, both my teammate/neighbor Kristen Arnold and my husband Zack Allison both contracted COVID-19 from our travels home that day... weeks and weeks before masks were suggested.
As I settled into the new Stay-at-Home orders in Colorado, I came to realize that for sanity's sake, it also meant explore-at-home orders for me personally. In 2020, I was looking forward to splitting my time between racing crits with ButcherBox’s new women’s squad and racing gravel under my own company, Bike Sports. In the past, with so much travel as a professional athlete (most recently with the Hagens Berman Supermint team, RIP), my at-home routine felt comforting and the perfect way to balance the unpredictability of racing and travel. In a pandemic, too much routine brought me a lot of anxiety, depression, and an inability to differentiate days or weeks... a hamster in a hamster wheel. A savior has been adventure riding.
Our Stay-at-Home orders in Colorado encouraged outdoor physical activity. In Fort Collins, we are the last medium-sized town on the Front Range, only about 50 miles from the Wyoming border. This means the areas to the East, North, and West are pretty rural and there is plenty of adventure to be had on bikes with virtually no traffic.
Once a week on average, I’ve been indulging in a new and/or super remote route, usually with Zack, and usually in the mountains. The months without snow are limited, so it’s a feast or famine mindset. Indulge while you can. It’s been wicked fun to ride for 5 hours and see single-digits of cars for the entire day, fording a river or two, and hauling bikes over countless fallen trees. Mountain weather can be super unpredictable, so I’m always sure to stuff my lightweight Gibralter Vest into a pocket. A couple months ago, I got stuck in a hailstorm while it was sunny as hell out, so it’s best to be prepared.
We were talking about these rides one day when I came up with the name “Gravel Graceland” for our region. It stuck. Our friends at Bonfire Effect created a graphic for it and we were off. With all the new cyclists popping up right now, we thought of creating a community Gravel Graceland website that hosts all sorts of gravel routes - “easy”, medium, and possibly crazy routes to encourage more people to tackle their own adventures. It’s beautiful to have more people on bikes.
With that in mind, I’m hosting two county-approved intimate adventures in July and August through Bike Sports: Newbie-friendly Gravel Graceland, the experience, and Gravel Unknown, a four-day gnarly adventure. We also have several BIPOC scholarships available, which include an Eliel kit for each recipient. Come join me! I’d love to introduce you to Gravel Graceland.