Zwift and UCI team up to take cycling into the virtual world



This ought to make the suits at the International Olympic Committee happy. As eCentralSports has previously reported, the IOC has indicated some interest in bring esports into the Olympic Games. You can forget about seeing League of Legends or Call of Duty at the next Olympics, though. The IOC favours esports that more closely reflect traditional sporting events and require a similar degree of athletic ability.

One event that seems like a shoo-in is virtual bicycle racing, in which participants ride stationary bikes on virtual courses. Zwift Inc. seems well positioned to be a leader in this area. The U.S.-based company launched its virtual cycling (and running) product in 2014, but it saw its profile raised significantly in the COVID-19 era.

When Tour de France promoter Amaury Sport Organisation postponed the race for two months due to COVID-19, it called on Zwift to produce a virtual version of the event.

Next month, Zwift will be in the spotlight once again as Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)—the world governing body for sports cycling, which oversees international competitive cycling events—hosts a major international event in the virtual realm.

Pros and community racers alike will compete

The inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will see teams from 22 countries take to a 50-km course. The races kick off on December 9 at 9 a.m. GMT (1 a.m. PST, 4 a.m. EST). Fifty-five women will compete in the women’s race, with 78 in the men’s race.

According to a November 23 statement released by Zwift CEO Eric Min, the start lists include a mix of pro road cyclists and top Zwift community racers. “Many will be familiar with the World Tour riders but I believe they will be pushed all the way by the specialist indoor racers,” Min said. “Don’t be surprised to see a member of the Zwift Cycling Esports emerge on top.”

The list of pros includes current and former UCI World Champions as well as Olympic and Paralympic gold medalists. Watch for Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa), Esteban Chaves (Columbia), Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), Lawson Craddock (USA), Tom Pidcock (Great Britain), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway),  Dame Sarah Storey (Great Britain), Annika Langvad (Denmark), Kristen Kulchinsky (Twenty20), and Lionel Sanders (Canada).

Winners of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will receive a newly unveiled rainbow jersey. They’ll each get a virtual jersey for their avatar. They will also get a real-life version they can wear in UCI Cycling Esports events for the 2021 season.

The UCI Cycling Esports World Championships’ rainbow jersey.

I have done a lot of different things over the course of my life and professional career. I have interviewed Oscar and Grammy winners and written cover stories for glossy newsstand magazines. I have played guitar in a rock band on national TV and run an independent music label for which I wrote all of the PR and marketing materials. In my spare time, I sweated out a novel about a world where raccoons are kings and dragons are real.

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