Zwift and the UCI have announced what may be the biggest bit of racing news in Zwift’s short history: the first-ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, to be held in 2020 on Zwift’s platform.
The UCI has enjoyed a mutually-beneficial relationship with Zwift since Zwift’s early days, with three UCI Road World Championship courses available in game (Richmond, Innsbruck, and Yorkshire). In fact, Zwifters have ridden over two million miles on these UCI courses!
We’ve known that the UCI has been taking Esports seriously, with April’s UCI progress report from president David Lappartient prominently including “e-cycling.” And the plans for 2020 aren’t exactly news, since his report included this:
… we have included e-cycling in our Regulations and are organising the first UCI e-cycling World Championships in 2020…
Still, today’s press release at the Zwift Draft House in Harrogate is our first confirmation that the 2020 WC’s will happen on Zwift–even though this shouldn’t surprise anyone!
Craig Edmondson, CEO of Zwift Esports, sees this as a chance to create something new which improves on some of the shortcomings of other cycling disciplines:
“The beauty of creating a new cycling discipline is that we have a blank slate and no limitations. Parity is incredibly important to us at Zwift and together with the UCI we will be working to create equal competition for both men and women. This means the same number of races, the same coverage for races, and of course, equal prize money. We will set the standard for fair play and equality.”
Eric Min, Zwift CEO, has championed Zwift as a platform for high-level racing at the UCI and Olympic levels for years. This is just one more step toward making this vision a reality.
“Earlier this year, we marked our ambition to develop an esports platform, but I think it’s much more than that. We are looking to establish a new cycling discipline. This partnership is a significant leap in that journey as we move further towards our ambition of delivering competition at the highest level in sport.”
Bang for the Buck
One edge Zwift racing has over traditional forms of bike racing is its low cost of entry. Early this year the first-ever pro esports cycling team (Canyon ZCC) was announced, and there are other pro teams being put together for the upcoming winter.
Rhys Howell, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships at Canyon and Canyon ZCC Team Manager, said the decision to create an esports team was easy:
“Racing on Zwift is still in its infancy but compared to the cost of running a traditional cycling team, starting Canyon ZCC was a no-brainer of an opportunity. We’ve got a great opportunity to steal a march on future competition, and we are excited by the opportunity to reach new audiences.”
Martigny, Switzerland on Zwift
The UCI has just announced that next year’s Worlds will be held in Switzerland, with the race finishes happening on a 20km circuit in the town of Martigny. So it’s safe to assume we’ll see a new Martigny course released on Zwift, probably in August 2020.
Of course, this is just the beginning–there’s a lot of work to be done before a World Championship can happen on Zwift.
We recently looked at what needs to be done to make Zwift a viable cycling discipline in our “Racing on Zwift – Challenges and Opportunities” series. Check it out!
Details on 2020 events are not yet finalized, and the UCI must implement a new rulebook for Cycling Esports as well. It’s going to be interesting to see this develop in the coming months.
What about you, Zwifters? Share your thoughts below!