The UCI announced today that it will launch the first esports World Championships in 2020, partnering with Zwift to bring top-level competition in the virtual racing realm.
The integration of esports cycling events into the UCI Constitution was approved in 2018 at the UCI Congress. With the new Memorandum of Understanding with Zwift, the UCI will now establish the rules and regulations for the governance of esports cycling competitions in addition to launching the first World Championships.
The UCI and Zwift "will collaborate to ensure the sporting credibility of cycling esports events", making sure the racing systems are "reliable enough to be used in events sanctioned by the UCI". Top of the list of requirements is a system to validate a rider's performance and deter technological fraud, including a way to identify riders and their height and weight.
The first-ever UCI Cycling esports World Championships will be organised on Zwift, an official supplier with the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire. The date is to be confirmed, but leading up to the championships Zwift has agreed to be the exclusive host for a maximum of 15 National Championship events as well as Continental Championships as qualifiers for Worlds.
After 2020, the UCI will launch a bidding process for platforms to host the esports World Championships.
"Cycling esports is a fantastic opportunity for the development of cycling. It is a new way of practising cycling that is expanding rapidly and enables more athletes, whether beginners or more experienced, to train and race regardless of what the weather is like and where they live," UCI President David Lappartient said.
"The Memorandum of Understanding between our Federation and Zwift is a decisive step towards the total integration of cycling esports by the UCI.
"We have been looking at the emergence of esports for some time with Zwift. As the governing body for the sport, we need to remain open to technical innovations and change and to remain relevant to all audiences. Zwift is a platform that is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.
"However, there is a particularly exciting opportunity through esports as we look to attract a younger audience to cycling. Together we have an opportunity to support a fitter youth, through the creation of a new sustainable sport."
Zwift says it will have equal competitions for men and women, the same number of races, coverage, and equal prize money.
"The beauty of creating a new cycling discipline is that we have a blank slate and no limitations," said Craig Edmondson, CEO of Zwift esports.
"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."