SBT GRVL partners with F1 driver for new international race just five years after establishment
In just four years and three in-person races, SBT GRVL has become a major event with riders representing all 50 states and 24 countries.
Approximately 3,000 participants took to the start line on Sunday, Aug. 14, split among four courses ranging from the 142-mile Black Course to the 37-mile Green Course.
The gravel race draws everyone from expert riders to beginners and even professional athletes.
Formula 1’s Valtteri Bottas took advantage of a four-week break in the F1 schedule to race in SBT GRVL for his second time.
Bottas was inspired by the race and decided to team up with SBT GRVL and bring a gravel race overseas to his home country of Finland.
“I talked with the organizers of SBT after last year’s event and I just gave a hint that it could be something that we could do in Finland together and then we joined forces,” Bottas said.
Bottas and SBT GRVL plan to build off what has worked so well in Steamboat for the new race and capitalize on both the similarities and differences of the area.
“We want to basically spread the good atmosphere we have here to Finland and it’s a different atmosphere obviously, it’s a different continent, different country and different kind of scenery but what is common, that’s beautiful, is gravel roads,” Bottas said.
The inaugural FNLD GRVL race will take place in June 2023, with the exact date pending next year’s F1 schedule.
SBT GRVL has long-term plans to expand their gravel races to other countries, and saw Bottas’ passion as the perfect avenue to bring it to Europe.
Chris Lyman, an SBT GRVL team member, is excited for the global expansion, and believes Europe, and Finland in particular, is the perfect place to begin that growth.
“Europe is a little behind the U.S. with gravel but it’s starting to get there so we want to get there early and take what we know here and teaming up with Valtteri because he grew up there, and so he knows everything about it,” Lyman said.
This year’s SBT GRVL race was another major success. Keegan Swenson took home first place on the Black Course with a time of 6:16:57, edging out Freddy Ovett and Payson McElveen by just one and two seconds respectively.
Lyman pointed out that this event is so much more than just a race, it’s a full weekend experience.
It’s almost like a fraternity is formed among all riders during the weekend and that is what has caused a major boom in gravel rides more recently.
“Why is gravel so popular right now?” Lyman said. “Because it’s a community of people who love to ride their bikes on dirt and so it has grown exponentially and Steamboat is, depending on who you ask, the best gravel race in the world. Certainly in North America.”
Lyman explains SBT GRVL has found 3,000 as the perfect number of participants for their race as it becomes more globally recognized.
There aren’t many places in the world that can host this event the way Steamboat does, and SBT believes the scenery is unmatched.
“It’s a great event. I did it last year for the first time and just enjoyed the whole weekend as an experience, especially that Sunday,” Bottas said. “The riding here is great, the weather is beautiful and I love the mountain air and the whole atmosphere of the event.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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