The UCI has today announced that the first-ever cycling Esports World Championships will be held across December 8 - 9, 2020.
While the 2020 Road World Championships, set for September 20-27 in Switzerland, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the remote nature of esports means the same restrictions do not apply.
All events will be held in the virtual world of Watopia on indoor cycling platform Zwift, and racers will compete entirely remotely for a newly designed rainbow jersey which will be awarded virtually. Although a physical jersey will also be supplied to winners to be worn during e-sports competitions throughout their reign.
The UCI's plans for an Esports World Championships were announced during the 2019 world championships in Yorkshire, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
However, it was during lockdown that e-sports and virtual racing really gained a foothold among professional cycling. Various events were run in place of postponed real-world races, such as the Tour of Flanders lockdown edition and the Virtual Tour de France.
UCI President David Lappartient called it "a historic moment", saying: "The year has certainly been a challenging one for all, but we are now back to enjoying racing and have a new UCI World Championships to look forward to at the end of 2020. Virtual races were hugely popular during the period that competitions ceased, and I truly believe in the potential of e-sports to help grow participation in our sport.”
National federations will be allocated places based on certain criteria, which while yet to be finalised, will include the country's UCI Road Rankings as of June 2020, the number of riders eligible on the Zwift platform and the number of riders in the anti-doping registered testing pool.
There will be automatic invites sent to 20 Federations for the men's event, and 13 Federations for the women's event, however, the UCI confirms that both men's and women's races will have an equal number of maximum possible entrants. They will also both compete on identical courses, over equal distances, with the same coverage and for equal prizes.
Eric Min, Zwift CEO and Co-Founder sees the world championships as an opportunity to cement Esports - and of course, Zwift - into a mainstay of the cycling calendar.
“2020 has been a big year for esports as it has helped fill the gap left by traditional sport," Min said.
"We look forward to establishing this as a new discipline of the sport – not one to plug gaps, but one that’s truly complementary to other disciplines, whether that be road, cyclo-cross or mountain bike. There’s a huge opportunity to grow the sport with esports and I’m proud that together with the UCI, we are able to lead the way.”
Men's automatic invites
Italy, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Poland, Austria, Colombia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Ireland, Japan.
Women's automatic invites
Netherlands, Italy, Australia, France, USA, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan.
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