What’s a Gravel Fondo? 

Article submitted by Kerry Aguirre and Photo credit Charlie Ekburg

The Ruby Roubaix (pronounced Roo Bay) Gravel Fondo is named, in part, after the Paris-Roubaix, a one-day professional bicycle race in northern France, starting north of Paris and finishing in Roubaix, at the border with Belgium. It is one of cycling’s oldest races and is one of the classics of the European calendar, famous for its rough terrain and cobblestones. 

A Fondo can be described as a large sporting event where participants of all ages and backgrounds compete against the clock and each other. Think of a Gravel Cycling Fondo as a marathon on wheels that typically varies in length from 75 to 150 miles, although some are as long as 200 miles. 

Although northeastern Nevada has long attracted mountain bikers, hill-climbing cyclists, road racers, and time-trial sprinters, the Ruby Roubaix presents an exciting opportunity for a popular and rapidly expanding outdoor interest: Gravel cycling. Gravel cycling combines elements of road – and mountain – biking, consisting mostly of distance riding over unpaved roads. Think wide-open dirt roads to chunky gravel to smooth trails. A gravel bike is most like a cross-country bike, which is designed to cover ground easily and pedal well, while also being able to tackle smaller obstacles and trails. 

On Saturday, June 24th, gravel cyclists – often self-identified as ‘Gravel Grinders’ – will choose to race or ride one of four courses of dirt and gravel roads beginning and ending at the Lamoille Schoolhouse. Males and females, 12 years and older, will apply their skill and training on courses of 117 miles, 62 miles, 38 miles, and 22 miles. Community volunteers will greet you at stops along the routes with big smiles, two-way radios, water, and snacks specific to the needs of cyclists performing over long distances in the sun and dust. 

The idea to hold a local Gravel Cycling event was introduced In July of 2020 by the then Rotary Club of Elko Desert Sunrise President and retired pediatrician Dr. Kevin Dinwiddie. Dr. Kevin, called by one of his very young patients “Dr. dinner-ready,” had personal experience participating in many long-distance cycling events. He suggested we model the Gravel Fondo after the highly successful “Edible Pedal,” formerly hosted by the Reno Rotary Club each year. Sunrise club members were motivated “to create a self-sustaining fundraising event for which net revenues would support youth leadership development, community improvement projects, and encourage collaborative partnerships.” 

Proceeds from the 2021 and 2022 fundraiser successfully backed two consecutive years of travel and fully paid sponsorships for five Elko County High School students to attend the life-changing Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening (RYLA) at the Grizzly Creek Ranch located near Portola, California. Two college scholarships for 2021 and 2022 graduating seniors from Elko County High Schools and various funding investments for community improvement projects in Lamoille, Spring Creek, and Elko. Longstanding Sunrise Rotary Foundation Chair and Club Treasurer, Jean Sloan, is the first to remind members, “When we apply for Rotary Grants, the District awards a dollar-for-dollar match for qualifying community improvement plans.” “It’s a great way to leverage volunteer effort and generous donations into otherwise unaffordable area project improvements.” 

Travel and tourism are vital to our rural Nevada economies. This year, the Elko Convention and Visitor’s Authority (ECVA) and Travel Nevada each awarded generous marketing grants to boost awareness and strategically promote the 2023 Gravel Fondo to a wide and interested audience. With their help, this event will capture the interest of outdoor enthusiasts by drawing them off I-80 to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Ruby Mountains from a bicycle seat. Most out-of-town athletes arrive the day before the race and stay an extra day afterward to enjoy the local cuisine, diverse culture, rich history, outdoor activities, striking scenery, and charming, wild, beautiful Nevada amenities. During the event weekend, you will see cyclists, their families, and friends filling their tanks at our gas stations, dining in our restaurants, lodging in our hotels, and frequenting our tourist stops, grocery stores, and camping areas. 

Learn more about the Ruby Roubaix Gravel Fondo by visiting www.rubyroubaix.com. In addition, we invite you to enter this ‘race or ride’ fundraising event. The 22-mile Pleasant Valley Loop is a great place to start if you are a beginner. 

Your friends and fans will be at the Lamoille School House start and finish line to make lots of noise as you finish. 

See you in Lamoille!