Zwift, the most prolific online training platform for cyclists, is teaming up with cycling’s global governing body, the UCI, to introduce an esports Cycling World Championships for 2020.
If you’re not familiar with Zwift, it’s an online platform that bridges a gap between training and gaming in enabling cyclists (and also runners in its other guise) training at home to ride or race virtually with people all across the world.
Scheduled rides and races — sometimes on real roads and courses recreated for the virtual world — give another dimension to turbo trainer usage; gradients, conditions and wind all affect the ride difficulty (with feedback through smart trainers), and other riders on-screen are real people pedalling hard in a garage or living room somewhere else in the real world.
As a growing number of cyclists begin to use the platform to get in their miles — Zwift notes that over two million miles have been ridden on its three recreated UCI World Championships circuits alone — it should perhaps come as no surprise that things are getting more serious.
Zwift Women’s League with team CANYON//SRAM. Zwift
There are already full-blown races for money that take place entirely online and even professional e-racing teams; British Cycling hosted a National Championships early in 2019 and Canyon ZCC has a roster of pro racers focused on Zwift.
The UCI Cycling Esports World Championships 2020 was announced during a joint Zwift-UCI press conference at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.
The UCI’s President, David Lappartient, said: “As the governing body for the sport, we need to remain open to technical innovations and change, and to remain relevant to all audiences… there is a particularly exciting opportunity through esports as we look to attract a younger audience to cycling. Together we have an opportunity to support a fitter youth, through the creation of a new sustainable sport.”
Format, dates and schedule for the event or qualifying events have not yet been released.
Zwift notes that “Both the UCI and Zwift are committed to fair play and governance in cycling. The partnership will see both implement a new UCI rulebook for Cycling Esports in the coming year.”