Getting to know Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas is officially part of the Canyon family. We sat down to get to know him a little better and chat about his passion for cycling.
When you see the name Valtteri Bottas, you probably associate it with Formula 1, racing cars, and Finland. But when he’s not in the seat of his F1 car, Valtteri likes nothing more than to be on the saddle of his gravel bike.
As a cycling enthusiast and self-confessed Canyon fan, Valtteri is now officially part of the Canyon family. If you follow him on Instagram, you’ll have seen him getting familiar with race circuits on board his Canyon road bike for some pre-race exercise. He’s recently been seen handing out bottles during the Tour de France Femmes to girlfriend Tiffany Cromwell and her CANYON//SRAM Racing teammates. His passion for the sport runs deep.
So, what is it about bikes that excites him so much? We sat down with Valtteri between F1 races to understand what drives him (pardon the pun).
Take us back to the beginning. How and why did you first get into cycling?
My first experiences with the bike was commuting to school when I was six years old. It was like a few kilometres’ ride every day in and out, no matter if it was summer, winter or minus 30 degrees, and windy! And then after school, I’d be meeting friends with the bike very often in the beautiful nature of Finland.
Obviously, I started at some point more systematic training for my racing career to be fitter. And cycling was always part of it. It was one way of training my aerobic endurance. Eventually when I moved to Monaco in 2013, I discovered a bit more road cycling. Obviously, Monaco is a beautiful place to ride your road bike, whether it's mountains or coastal roads, there's so many cool, cool roads.
Finally, when I met Tiffany, [I gained] more knowledge on pro cycling and a cyclist’s life: the teamwork that is involved, tactics and bike technology. All that adds so much more information that it became even more interesting to me.
When I started riding more than running, I could quickly feel the gains and it just became an addiction, almost like you just want to be better. So yeah, I love seeing places with a bike and exploring. I quite often travel with my bike, so it's one way to see places and a great form of training for me without impact, like you get in running.
I’ve now got into a bit of racing as well. Mainly for just challenging myself pushing myself to the limit, and especially gravel racing. It’s good for me because it almost feels like it's a bit more relaxed. And also there's maybe a bit of beer involved!
You mentioned how passionate you are about cycling and how much love you have for the sport. How do F1 and cycling compare and which elements do you like about each sport?
F1 and cycling are obviously very different sports and you do need different skills. F1 is a very skilled sport, it is extremely physical as well, depending on the track. With a bike the pain you feel is mostly your legs, and just fatigue in your lungs and your breathing. With F1, the pain is like in the whole body towards the end of the race. With the G forces corner after corner, it starts to fatigue everything, especially your neck. You need to have a strong core but not particularly strong legs. The brake pedal is super stiff, so for that you need a bit of leg strength to press it really hard. But it is different sporting wise to cycling.
What I like about cycling is that obviously it does make me fitter. F1 races require good cardio fitness and endurance because races are anything up to two hours. When you're riding a bike you need to be aware [whether you’re riding] a mountain bike or road bike or gravel bike and you always need to be kind of aware of your surroundings. You can't just idle mentally, completely, because you need to somehow stay focused especially on more technical gravel or mountain bike rides. Cycling is good for the head as well.
Obviously F1 is high in technology with a lot of innovation. But you see the same thing nowadays in bikes. Yes, a bicycle might be a lot simpler than an F1 car, but in both sports, the top athletes want the best equipment, you know. There's always going to be innovation, there's always going to be huge development. There's been huge development since I started cycling myself and that is really cool to see.
Both sports are very much team sports and the team spirit always becomes a huge element when it's about winning medals or trophies. But of course, in terms of the physical pain, it is quite different.
So cycling and F1 complement each other, right?
For sure they do complement each other. When I’m on my bike, I gain cardio, but also I use the bike almost like a stress release, you know? In a way, it's a great way to clear my head if I have a bit of stress, and a chance to explore.
It’s also a way for me to challenge myself when I'm not racing in my car. And when I miss racing, then I race on my bicycle. I actually get quite a similar feeling out of it. Maybe not going 350 kilometres per hour on a bike, and not maybe quite having the same adrenaline rush, but in terms of challenging myself it's quite similar.
What does the perfect bike ride look like for you?
For me, the perfect ride is in a new location. I love to explore. Whether it is in Finland, in the US or wherever in the world, I want a new ride. You try to gain a bit of knowledge from locals and you have a blast. You see new scenery, new views, new roads, new surfaces. The ride would be on a gravel bike because that's my favourite at the moment. During the ride yes, you have coffee for sure, the temperature would be around I would say 25 degrees Celsius and no wind. I’d be in good company, preferably with Tiffany.
And then at the end of the ride, you upload your ride on Strava, you look at the data and you chill. A good beer post-ride would be the final thing that makes it perfect!
You said the Suzuka F1 track in Japan is your favourite, but what's your favourite route to ride?
My favourite route to ride, at the moment is a 50km loop I use for a nice ride. When I get back home to Finland to Lahti Nastola. It's I would say 80% gravel. There's some undulating hills, really, really nice hard-packed gravel. Nice views. It never, just never, gets boring. Whoever goes to my home region or joins FNLD GRVL, I'm more than happy to show you that ride. And it's obviously a special for me because it is my home.
What does it mean to you to put on a gravel event, FNLD GRVL, in your home country and region?
I think the best place to ride gravel is in Finland, and especially in my hometown which is obviously pretty special for me. I mentioned to the guys at SBT Gravel (of Steamboat Springs in Colorado) that it would be so cool to have a gravel event in Finland, because I just think the roads are beautiful and are definitely top of my list. I thought it would be great and SBT got really excited, so we joined forces.
Tiffany also got involved, so it's finally happening next year in June. We already had a test event in August and it was a success. We had lots of international press, lots of visitors from different countries, and everyone just loved it.
Lahti City is really, really behind it because they are really pushing gravel and pushing people to go outdoors. Lahti is actually the Green Capital of Europe, because it will be a carbon neutral city very soon. It's kind of showing the way for many other cities in the Europe, which is really, really cool. I'm really proud to be part of that and the event is going to be huge. You definitely don't want to miss it!
Are there any other events you have seen that you would like to have a go at?
Actually, yes, Grinduro looks really cool. They say it's like the perfect balance of racing versus partying. Sounds pretty fun to me! I'm actually planning to do Grinduro Australia. I think it's close to Melbourne, on 4 December.
There are so many events though. I think Leadville one day would be really cool. I think Cape Epic with the mountain bike in South Africa looks really, really cool. The thing is, there are so many nice events now that I want to do, but obviously I'm quite busy with my racing. But one day for sure. The next highlight for me is definitely going to be FNLD GRVL in early June 2023.
Watch this space
Look out for Valtteri at gravel events around the world and on the side lines of some of Tiffany’s races. He’ll be balancing his F1 career with some extracurricular cycling when his calendar allows. We can’t wait to join him at FNLD GRVL and see him take on other cycling challenges.
Gravel racing has gone from zero to hero in just a few years attracting pros and amateurs alike – but what makes it so exciting?
From the top end of the road racing scene to the deep end of gravel racing, Tiffany shares her experiences as a gravel rookie.
Want to know where the 5 best gravel events are in the world? Get signed up for these gravel rides!
We share our favourite gravel riding accessories from the obvious to the more obscure.