UCI Cycling Esports World Championships: pro cycling has never been more fun for esports fans!
The Cycling Esports World Championships are coming – don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them. It’s quite a niche esport, but a popular one – and one that is drawing real athletes at that. For the competition (the inaugural Cycling EWC, actually) participating racers will be using the virtual racing platform Zwift.
Zwift is an app that allows users to run, train and cycle at home – with various kinds of exercise equipment and in semi-realistic settings. In the case of cycling, Zwift uses a modified type of stationary home-bike in order to measure the rider’s performance. In some cases, it’s even possible to dock a ‘real’ bike into the Zwift setup.
It’s the ideal way to compete for cyclists, both pro and amateur – and it’s exactly the pros that are using the chance to compete virtually in the CEWC. One of Zwift’s main selling points is that it combines the fun of video games with real workouts – and that appeal isn’t lost even on the best of the best.
Elinor Barker at the CEWC
Elinor Barker definitely qualifies as one of the best – the Olympic champion and pro racer is going to be part of one of the cyclists taking part in the virtual race. She, as well as eight other British athletes will be competing under the UK flag for the title – and they’re of course not the only competitors.
22 countries will be sending racers, who will compete in two different races – one for men, with 78 competitors and one with 54 in the women’s category. Several of them are highly decorated racers, like Elinor Baker. Another British racer, Sarah Storey, has a total of 14 Paralympic golds to her name, as well as for example, Tour de France winner Thomas de Gendt, taking part for Belgium.
All racers will compete in a 50km track race – it’s a figure-eight reverse course in a rather unique location. That’s quite literal – the island of Watopia is a fictional location in the Zwift app, with an elevation of 483 metres, and two climes along the way. These are 2.5km at 1.8% incline, and 0.9km at 5% incline.
All riders will be competing on the same Taxc NEO 2T smart trainer to make sure that they are competing on even grounds, so to speak – though there are a few differences from regular racing. The first of those are, of course, the powerups – there is both one that makes the participants more aerodynamic and one that makes them lighter. This helps with speeds and inclines respectively, and definitely adds in an element that in person races can’t claim for themselves!
The prize money for the event is €24.000. In this, €8.000 will go to the winners of the two races each, with the second and third places receiving €4.000 and €2.000 respectively. In addition, all participants will receive a special rainbow jersey, that they can wear during competitions down the line… and they will also get a virtual version that they can put on in future Zwift races.
Additionally, winners will also have their image recreated in the app, so that they can race as ‘themselves’ for a year after the event!