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Triathletes Set to Race in Inaugural Esports World Championship

Pro triathletes set to race in virtual race against top cyclists in an effort to live out the American Dream: make money without leaving your living room.

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The start list for tomorrow’s virtual event includes pro triathletes Lionel Sanders (who recently took fourth place at Challenge Daytona), Angela Naeth, and former pro Holden Comeau—who is also the current Zwift national champion. The Zwift-hosted event is 50km long and takes place in the virtual world of Watopia. The men’s and women’s winners will take home approximately $9,500, a digital rainbow jersey, and a real-life rainbow jersey for the UCI-sponsored event. Though it may not seem like much for tri, the prize purse mirrors the UCI road world championships—and it won’t require any travel beyond walking to the garage. 

The course is the Watopia Figure 8 Reverse route on Zwift, which covers 50km and 483m of simulated elevation. Zwift modified the standard route so riders will finish atop the Watopia Hilly KOM (QOM), bringing them over 5.5% grade for nearly 1km.

Current women’s road and time trial world champion Anna van der Breggen (Team Boels–Dolmans) will be joined by her Dutch compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton–Scott). The two together account for dozens of WorldTour wins on the road over the past decade, as well as world championship and Olympic podiums. Climbing specialist on the road Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC Team) has proven she knows how to win Zwift, too.

The United States is fielding a competitive squad that includes accomplished road racers who are also experienced in Zwift: Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB), Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally Cycling), and Jacqueline Godbe will be starting the women’s race.

GIF of world champion jersey
The women’s and men’s winners will each win a new jersey that their avatars wear in Zwift and they can don in the real world.

Stephens, who won the Virtual Tour de France this past summer, recently told VeloNews that Zwift has been significant in helping her to punch through to the top level on the road, and is a valuable part of her training.

“Zwift was definitely a huge part because it gave me a chance to not be afraid to fail. You’re in your own living room, and if you fail, you’re just going to go to the couch and watch some television after. I decided that I can be a sprinter, I could be a time trialist, I could do it all,” she said in a recent interview with Velonews.

The United States men’s squad will include current Zwift national champion Holden Comeau (Saris-The Pros Closet), who was also the number one world-ranked rider in Zwift earlier in 2020. He will be joined by Saris-TPC teammate Ryan Larson, Cory Williams, and Tyler Williams (L39ion of LA), as well as Lawson Craddock (EF Pro Cycling). Brian Hodges and Jadon Jaeger round out the current Team USA start list.

Comeau, like the Dutch women, was extended an invitation to compete at the first-ever “Zwift worlds” based on his performances in-game. But unlike the Dutch world and Olympic champions, he does not have a palmares from racing on the road.

However, what Comeau lacks in on-the-road racing experience, he more than makes up for with an 18W/kg sprinter’s kick timed at exactly the rights moments—which he’s honed through winning dozens of races in Zwift. Comeau knows the ins and outs of the game so well, he was brought in as a guest director sportif for Rally Cycling when the team competed in the Virtual Tour de France.

Male riders of note on the start list include world hour record holder Victor Campenaerts (NTT Pro Cycling), Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers), Rigoberto Uran (EF Pro Cycling), Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT Pro Cycling), Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), and Canadian pro triathlete Lionel Sanders.

On the women’s side, keep an eye on the watts-per-kilo of Lisa Brennauer (Team Ceratizit–WNT Pro Cycling), Sarah Gigante (Tibco-SVB), Jessica Pratt (Canyon-SRAM), and another Canadian pro triathlete, Angela Naeth.

The majority of athletes representing their nations were chosen based on the respective federations’ selection process, however, Zwift and the UCI retained the right to offer select riders (indicated with a *) wildcard invites, citing previous performances in Zwift and/or on the road.

Men’s UCI World Esports Championships Start List

Nation    Rider
AUS William Clarke
AUS Jack Haig
AUS Benjamin Hill
AUS Freddy Ovett
AUS Cooper Sayers
AUS Jay Vine
AUS Nicholas White
AUT Felix Ritzinger
AUT Moran Vermeulen
BEL Victor Campenaerts
BEL Eli Iserbyt
BEL Maximilien Picoux
BEL Jens Schuermans
BEL Lennert Teugels
BEL Julien Van den Brande
BEL Harm Vanhoucke
BEL Lionel Vujasin
CAN Jordan Cheyne
CAN Charles-Etienne Chrétien
CAN Pier-André Coté
CAN Matteo Dal-Cin
CAN Lionel Sanders
COL Esteban Chaves
COL Rigoberto Urán
DEN Anders Foldager
DEN Frederik Muff
DEN Nicklas Pedersen
DEN Michael Valgren Hundahl
ESP Carlos Barbero Cuesta
ESP Victor De La Parte Gonzalez
ESP Ivan Garcia Cortina
ESP Juan Pedro Lopez Perez
ESP Luis Angel Mate Mardones
FRA Valentin Madouas*
FRA Jordan Sarrou
FRA Benjamin Thomas*
GBR Edward Clancy
GBR Tom Pidcock
GBR Robert Scott
GBR Maximilian Stedman
GBR Andrew Tennant
GER Lucas Carstensen
GER Miguel Heidemann
GER Jonas Koch
GER Jason Osborne
GER Jonas Rapp
IRL Christopher McGlinchey
ITA Alberto Bettiol
ITA Francesco Lamon
ITA Domenico Pozzovivo
ITA Michele Scartezzini
JPN Fumiyuki Beppu
JPN Nariyuki Masuda
NOR Edvald Boasson Hagen
NOR Jonas Iversby Hvideberg
NOR Vidar Mehl
NZL Ollie Jones
POL Paweł Bernas
POL Marceli Boguslawski
POL Michał Kamiński
POL Wojciech Pszczolarski
POL Adam Stachowiak
POL Patryk Stosz
POR Jorge Magalhães
POR Miguel Leite Salgueiro
RSA Ryan Gibbons
RSA Daryl Impey
SUI Lars Forster*
SWE Olof Åström
SWE Samuel Brännlund
SWE Johan Norén
USA Holden Comeau
USA Lawson Craddock
USA Brian Hodges
USA Jadon Jaeger
USA Ryan Larson
USA Tanner Ward
USA Tyler Williams
USA Cory Williams

Women’s UCI World Esports Championships Start List

Nation   Rider
AUS Justine Barrow
AUS Sarah Gigante
AUS Jessica Pratt
AUS Bre Vine
AUS Vicktoria Whitelaw
AUS Bree Wilson
BEL Mieke Docx
CAN Olivia Baril
CAN Angela Naeth
CAN Georgia Simmerling
COL Natalia Franco
DEN Marie-Louise Hartz
DEN Annika Langvad
DEN Fie Østerby
ESP Lourdes Oyarbide Jimenez
FRA Marie Le Net
GBR Elinor Barker
GBR Megan Barker
GBR Louise Bates*
GBR Danielle Christmas
GBR Anna Henderson*
GBR Jenny Holl
GBR Sarah Storey
GER Franziska Brausse
GER Lisa Brennauer
GER Tanja Erath
GER Hannah Ludwig
GER Christa Riffel
GER Finja Smekal
ITA Martina Alzini
JPN Shoko Kashiki
JPN Eri Yonamine
NED Anna van der Breggen*
NED Annemiek van Vleuten*
NED Kirsten Wild*
NOR Kristin Falck
NOR BorghildLøvset
NZL Ella Harris
POL Sonia Cięciel
POL Magdalena Czusz
POL Aurela Nerlo
POR Maria Martins
RSA Ashleigh Moolman Pasio
SWE Emma Belforth
SWE Marlene Bjärehed
SWE Cecilia Hansen
USA Krista Doebel-Hickok
USA Kristen Faulkner
USA Jacqueline Godbe
USA Kristen Kulchinsky
USA Laura Matsen-Ko
USA Courtney Nelson
USA Shayna Powless
USA Lauren Stephens
USA Christie Tracy

A version of this article originally appeared on Velonews.com.