De Gendt given late wildcard place in Esport World Championships

Giro dItalia 2020 103rd Edition 17th stage Bassano del Grappa Madonna di Campiglio 203 km 21102020 Thomas De Gendt BEL Lotto Soudal photo Luca BettiniBettiniPhoto2020
Thomas De Gendt (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Thomas De Gendt has announced he will ride the first edition of the Esports World Championships on December 9 after being awarded a last-minute wildcard invitation.  

The Lotto Soudal breakaway expert has been added to the Belgium team and joins the likes of Victor Campenaerts and European cyclocross champion Eli Iserbyt, with Esteban Chaves, Rigoberto Urán, Tom Pidcock, Alberto Bettiol, Cory Williams and Lawson Craddock also on the final start list. 

20 national teams and two wild card teams are riding the 50km virtual race on the Zwift platform. Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Anna van der Breggen are on the women’s start list, with the big-name professional riders going up against a number of the best Esport racers. 

The Esports world champion will be awarded a special virtual jersey for their avatar and a real-life version that may be worn in UCI Cycling Esports events for the 2021 season. It has the iconic rainbow bands but features a pixel design to represent the new digital discipline of racing.

Both men and women will compete on 50km courses that will be held on Zwift's Watopia Figure 8 Reverse course, finishing on top of the Hilly Q/KOM. With 483m in elevation, this course will suit a rider with all-round abilities.

Riders will compete remotely from their own homes or training bases, much like in the Virtual Tour de France. Zwift has announced the Garmin Tacx Neo 2T as the official smart turbo trainer for the event so that all the riders compete on the same model of hardware. Rider data and performances will also be verified by Zwift. 

Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab) pointed out that De Gendt has never been selected for the World Championships road race as an elite rider, though he did represent Belgium in the individual time trial in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

De Gendt finished fourth in the virtual Tour of Flanders in April but was famously taken out from a Zwift race after riding at over 500 watts. 

“Virtual racing against amateurs is fun but it is very tough against world leaders. It was really tough,” he responded at the time. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done on a bike."

Cyclingnews will have full coverage of the Esports World Championships.

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