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The UCI has announced the first-ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships hosted on the Zwift platform.
This new championship event will take place December 8-9, 2020. Participants will be allowed to race from the comfort of their own pain cave.
Both men’s and women’s races will take place over the same distance on the same course in the same virtual world.
The event has been in discussion and planning since the UCI road world championships in Yorkshire, in 2018.
“It’s with great pleasure that we are able to confirm the dates and plans for the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships,” said UCI president David Lappartient. “The year has certainly been a challenging one for all, but we are now back to enjoying racing and have a new UCI world championships to look forward to at the end of 2020. Virtual races were hugely popular during the period that competitions ceased, and I truly believe in the potential of esports to help grow participation in our sport. This is a historic moment.”
Over the past six months—and especially during the first months of the COVID-19 racing stop—Zwift participation skyrocketed.
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Amateurs were crowding into Zwift with nearly 35,000 simultaneous users on the platform’s peak day.
In anticipation of the restart to road racing, pros jumped in on the action across single-day and multi-stage events, pitting domestic elites against WorldTour level pros, sometimes with unexpected outcomes.
But Zwift wants to dispel the notion that esports are a surrogate to outdoor competition, and the cycling online platform now has the backing of cycling’s governing body.
“We’re delighted to finally be able to unveil the plans for the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships,” adds Eric Min, Zwift CEO and co-founder. “2020 has been a big year for esports as it has helped fill the gap left by traditional sport. We look forward to establishing this as a new discipline of the sport—not one to plug gaps, but one that’s truly complementary to other disciplines, whether that be road, cyclocross or mountain bike. There’s a huge opportunity to grow the sport with esports and I’m proud that together with the UCI, we are able to lead the way.”
While the championship route details, technology requirements, and rider data verification processes have yet to be released, the announcement of such an event was met with enthusiasm and optimism.
Holden Comeau who is the defending United States Zwift national champion, and who was the world number one ranked rider in Zwift in early 2020 said, “I think December will bring a historic moment for the sport of cycling in general. Over the past few months, cycling esports has burst quickly onto a broader public consciousness, and I think it has become clear that racing a bike online is a legitimate, captivating, sporting experience. There is depth to the sport. It is not a supplement for other types of riding. It is its own thing with unique athletic demands. And as we’ve seen already with the introduction of professional racing on Zwift, I think the athletes who stand on top of the podium in December will prove those differences and solidify this new discipline. I hope I’m fortunate enough to be one of them.”