A total of 15 Professional Continental and Continental teams will take part in the inaugural pro esports cycling league series, with the first race held in London at the Pinarello store on Wednesday 23rd January.
Organised on the Zwift virtual platform, the KISS Super League is a 10-race series with teams of four riders racing against each other every week. The races will award on points, with riders' points accumulated in to a team total that decides the 'winning' team. Heart rate monitors are mandatory while all riders have to race on organiser-provided power metres, with weigh-ins also expected. In-game virtual power-ups will also be awarded, adding an extra twist to the racing.
A women's race series is set to begin on Tuesday February 5, with Canyon-SRAM and Cervelo-Bigla among the teams competing. Zwift hopes to launch its first e-racing game for amateurs by the end of the month.
The races will be shown live on Facebook, with a scheduled time of 7:00PM GMT, 2:00pm EST and 6:00AM AEDT. On Wednesday, the men will race for 40.2km on Zwift's Watopia Volcano Climb After Party circuit, which was used for stage 4 of the Tour de Zwift ride series. Around 36km of the route is quite flat, but half the route's vertical 286m vertical gain comes in the final four kilometres on the volcano.
The 15 teams competing in this first series are Hagens Berman Aexeon, Israel Cycling Academy, Cofidis, Novo Nordisk, Dimension Data U23, Canyon-DHB p/b Bloor Homes, Team Wiggins-Le Col, Arapahoe-Hincapie p/b BMC, Madison Genesis, Oliver's Real Food Racing, SEG Racing Academy, Pro Racing Sunshine Coast of Australia, Ribble Pro Cycling from Britain, plus a Zwift Community All Stars team and a Zwift Academy Dream Team.
"Pro cycling has embraced Zwift as a training platform and Zwift has proven itself as a talent ID platform for pro cycling," said Eric Min, Zwift CEO. "Now is the time to push on with esports and in doing so build value for pro cycling.
"Our goal is to create a new sport within a sport, celebrated by pro cyclists, amateur cyclists and cycling fans all over the world."
"The history of cycling is very special to me but this doesn't mean things should not change," Wiggins said.
"BMX bikes came out of nowhere to become the 'must have' thing when I was a kid in the 80s. Now it's an Olympic discipline. This story of cycling is ever evolving and as a parent I want to see our sport provide accessibility and inspiration for young people. If a computer game can get kids off the sofa and onto a bike to workout and compete, then I'm a supporter."
Canyon-SRAM and the Dimension Data under-23 team have used Zwift competitions to identify riders for a spot on their roster, while British Cycling has agreed a two-year partnership with Zwift, which includes an 'eRacing' national championship open to everyone. Cycling Australia held an e-Crit championships event during the recent national championships in Ballarat and the UCI confirmed last year that intends to create an esports World Championships and draw up standard rules for racing.
"We're looking to the future of every of aspect of cycling and so were keen to help virtual cycling develop. We want to ensure that happens properly by creating some clear guidelines and rules, including anti-doping rules," UCI president David Lappartient told Cyclingnews during the 2018 road race world championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
"Cycling as an esports is different to many other sports because it's not virtual, you have to push on the pedals, so it's a real physical effort. We could one day see Peter Sagan competing in esports races. I think that would be great for cycling."