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Vancouver Island adventure gravel bike race series starts in Campbell River

The River City Fondo is the first stop of three in the 2024 Mosaic Gravel Series
Impulso is the shortest and least intense courses of the three options. It is part of the River City Fondo, which will take place on April 21. Map by Panache Cycling Sports.

A new series of bike races will be coming to Vancouver Island this year.

The Mosaic Gravel Series is the brainchild of Jon Watkins of Panache Cycling Sports, a former elite cyclist racer who turned his attention to hosting various races, including the Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series and the Canadian National Masters Cycling Championships.

“After the success he had starting and building the Burnt Bridge Classic in Duncan over the past five years, Jon has since expanded to a Nanaimo (Nanaimo Unpaved) event and, for the first time in 2024, the Campbell River event,” says Trevor Dalton of Destination Campbell River.

The event in Campbell River is called the River City Fondo and will take place on April 21, the first stop for the Mosaic Gravel Series. Mosaic Forest Management hosts the event.

“Having been both a competitor and spectator of major cycling events in Europe, Jon has been tirelessly to build cycling culture in Canada for decades and to bring the same notoriety to the sport here that exists internationally,” says Dalton. “Recognizing the potential to host a gravel biking event on Campbell River’s excellent quality gravel trails, Jon first connected with local Campbell Riverite John Vanderveen, Canadian Masters Gravel Champion and employee of Pedal Your World bike shop, to suss out the potential of the event and design race options on the trails just west of the city.”

Watkins and Vanderveen approached Dalton and Destination Campbell River to partner up to help showcase the event. The We Wai First Nations, along with sponsors Trek Bikes and the Mosaic Forest Group, the Campbell River project came to fruition.

There will be three different races in Campbell River’s event with different duration based on intensity. The Impulso is a 40-kilometre race, the Intermedio is 70-kilometres, and the Esperto is 120-kilometres. Winners of each category will get medals.

“All three routes showcase the beauty of the North Island and Campbell River. Riders will cruise through lush green forest, past many beautiful lakes and take in the big views of the mountains as they crest a variety of climbs as they make their way across the picturesque Strathcona Dam and around Campbell Lake,” says Vanderveen. Each route contains a mixture of technical terrain to keep the excitement high.”

Vanderveen adds riders can expect an organized event with well-stocked aid stations along the course and race marshals posted at intersections to ensure a safe and fun atmosphere.

So far, 200 people have registered, with over 100 committed to the City Gravel Fondo, the first of the Mosaic Gravel Series.

The Burnt Bridge Classic in Duncan will act as the second stop in the series and will run from May 18 to 19. The final stage is in Nanaimo, with Unpaved on June 16.

The start and finish line is just of Willis Road on We Wai Kai Nation land.

“We’d love to see spectators out supporting the riders,” says Vanderveen. “This is a great spot to take in the atmosphere, grab a coffee at Starbucks, and watch the riders leave with a smile on their face and return with a story to tell.”

Registration for River City Fondo and the two other events is still open. People can also volunteer and help with course making, registration, ride ambassadors, transportation and more.

Those interested can sign up at

The Esperto trail, the longest and most intense of the three courses at the River City Fondo. The race will take place on April 21. Map by Panache Cycling Sports.

About the Author: Brendan Jure

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