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What are these F1 drivers doing on bikes?

Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso are racing gravel and taking on big rides

Photo by: Instagram

Last weekend Valtteri Bottas confused many F1 fans by competing at SBT Gravel, a different type of race than he is known for. He’s not the only pro driver who puts in some hours in the saddle this week— Fernando Alonso, who races for Alpine, rode 162km with 2,066m of elevation just two days before a historic drive at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (sports car) race.

SBT gravel

Bottas, a Finnish racing driver who currently competes with Mercedes, placed fifth overall in the 64-mile Red course at SBT GRVL and second in the men’s 30-39 age group last weekend.

The 31-year-old’s partner, Tiffany Cromwell, races for Women’s WorldTour team Canyon//SRAM. The pair both raced in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on the weekend, with  Cromwell racing the 144-mile Black Course and finishing eight overall.

Though it was Botta’s first gravel race, the driver is not unfamiliar with cycling. He hosts an annual duathlon in Finland, which had its fourth event on August 22, 2021.

A big warmup

Alonso is a world champion driver, and this weekend he became the first person to drive a lap of the historic Le Mans circuit in an F1 car.

The Spaniard is also a dedicated cyclist. He warmed up for this weekend’s drive with a five hour and 44 minute ride. Bernhard ten Brinke, a rally driver, jokingly suggested he was riding an ebike on his ride, commenting: “with motor my friend or without?”

In February Alonso was struck by a driver while riding in Switzerland. The 40-year-old sustained a broken upper jaw and required surgery to fix it. Despite the injury almost taking him out for the season, he maintains that he will continue to ride his bike.

“I still love cycling,” Alonso told CNN. “I will probably have to use the mountain bike a little bit more now, on different trails and avoid the normal roads. Maybe, the car could be more scared now than before!”

“But in a way, it will not change much. My preparation will be based on a bicycle always.”

It seems as if his cycling habits were a bit much for his former team boss, Flavio Briatore, who (after Alonso’s crash) said in an interview: “I tell Fernando to stop with his bike because his bike is very dangerous. If you want to go, you go with the mountain bike, not in the street. I tell him ‘if you don’t stop with the bike I’ll lock you in the garage – not the bike, I’ll lock you in the garage.’”