Online cycling is about to provide more genuine excitement and competitive racing with the first ever Zwift UCI Cycling Esports World Championships to be raced on Wednesday, 9 December, on the roads of Watopia, Zwift’s digital world.
In a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on mobility, virtual cycling has been on the rise. And now it’s time to award pixelated rainbow jerseys for the best male and female riders among the 132 champions joining the event from all around the globe and from very different backgrounds.
Women Elite and Men Elite participants will tackle the same road race route: the first rider to cover the 50.035km on the circuit of Watopia Figure 8 Reverse will become the first UCI World Champion crowned on Zwift.
Figure 8 Reverse is a 29.7km hilly circuit with two short punchy climbs and lots of rollers. The race will cover 1.6 laps, with a summit finish atop the Watopia Hilly KOM Forward (900m at 5%). Two powerups will be enabled during the race: Aero (makes the rider more aerodynamic for 15 seconds) and Lightweight (reduces the rider’s weight by 10% for 15 seconds). These will be awarded to riders each time they pass an arch on the course, with each rider receiving a total of 11 powerups during the event.
Zwift enthusiast Scott Gleason holds the Strava KOM on Figure 8 Reverse with an average speed of 48.2km/h (36’53’’). But dozens of pedalling stars with various sets of skills are gearing up to take over the world of Zwift.
Rainbows and stars over Watopia
The 2020 Zwift UCI Cycling Esports World Championships gather 54 riders in the Women Elite competition (start at 13:47 GMT/UTC) and 78 for the Men Elite event (at 14:45 GMT/UTC). They have been equipped with the same Tacx NEO 2T smart trainer and accessories.
With around one hour of effort ahead of them, they should provide intense racing from start to finish, as witnessed, for instance, in the Virtual Tour de France this summer, and during the many races Zwift and other virtual cycling platforms have organised throughout 2020.
In the meantime, everyone can participate in recon rides enhanced with podcasts from former and current UCI World Champions including Mark Cavendish and Anna van der Breggen and the Dutch stars of cyclo-cross, Mathieu Van der Poel and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado.
The Stars and Stripes of the United States of America will be the most represented in the pelotons, with nine riders in the Women Elite event (including Lauren Stephens, winner of the Tour Cycliste International de l’Ardèche and two stages of the Virtual Tour de France) and eight in the Men’s race (with Holden Comeau, the USA Zwift National Champion).
As Comeau highlighted on Facebook, it took him 40 years and three sports (he was a swimmer in college then a professional triathlete) to represent his country in a World Championships. He’s reflective of the diversity of talents lining up this Wednesday, including many riders who already claimed rainbow jerseys in different fields.
Van der Breggen, Pidcock, Storey, Sanders… a unique mix of talents
Only two months ago, Anna van der Breggen was the queen of Imola, triumphing both in the individual timetrial and the road race to add more success to her extraordinary career. Let’s see how far her abilities get her in Watopia, alongside her Dutch compatriots Annemiek van Vleuten (3 titles in the road since 2017) and Kirsten Wild (8 UCI World Champion titles on the track since 2015).
Great Britian’s Elinor Barker also took a rainbow jersey on the road, when she became the Junior UCI World Champion in the individual time trial in 2012. And since then, she became a five-time Elite UCI World Champion on the track, claiming her latest victory in 2020, in Berlin, in the points race. Her compatriot Tom Pidcock also brings his versatile talents as he participates in his fourth UCI Worlds this year. He began the year with a silver medal in cyclo-cross before claiming cross-country Olympic (XCO) gold with his mountain bike (U23) and his E-mountain bike.
But the most decorated rider participating in the 2012 Cycling Esports Worlds is another British star, Dame Sarah Storey, a multiple gold winner at the Paralympic Games and at UCI Para-cycling World Championships, both on the road and on the track. She’s also competed against able-bodied athletes and dominated them on different occasions, with several British National Champion titles.
Mountain bike experts such as the Frenchman Jordan Sarrou (winner of the XCO at the 2020 UCI Worlds) and cyclo-cross stars like Eli Iserbyt (two-time Under 23 cyclo-cross UCI World Champion) complete one of the most diversified fields one could imagine, also featuring the Belgian Victor Campenaerts, holder of the UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot.
The start list also features an extremely successful triathlete, the Canadian Lionel Sanders, World Champion in the ITU Long Distance Triathlon. You can join from your home, as these stars do, and follow live the first ever Zwift UCI Cycling Esports World Championships on Wednesday!