Reigning road race world champion Mads Pedersen and his Trek-Segafredo teammate Vincenzo Nibali are among a star-studded list of riders signed up for the new RCS Sport-organised Challenge of Stars – a two-day series of 'knockout' events that will take place on the Bkool indoor training and racing platform later this month.
Racing will be broadcast live across two days – May 23 and 24 – and will pit riders against each other in knockout events, before crowning separate sprinting and climbing winners.
Seven sprinters and seven climbers were initially unveiled, with more riders to be announced nearer the race. A later tweet from race organiser RCS Sport indicated that there would be eight sprinters going head-to-head, one-on-one, and then eight climbers doing the same, with a winner to come from each category.
Other names included among the sprinters are Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan and Arkéa-Samsic's Nacer Bouhanni, while Bouhanni's teammate Warren Barguil and Astana's Jakob Fuglsang appear on the list of climbers.
With no racing permitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and riders trying to stay fit at home, organisers and teams have happily taken part in eSport races.
The Challenge of Stars follows on from the virtual Tour of Flanders, also held on the Bkool platform, the Digital Swiss 5 races organised by the Velon teams on the Rouvy platform, and last week's Tour for All series on Zwift. RCS Sport has also created virtual riding and racing with Garmin, including a 'virtual' Giro d'Italia, but the Challenge of Stars is the first event by the Italian organiser to also be broadcast on television and online.
"In this period, being unable to carry out road races outdoors led us to think of new ways to organize cycling races; this is how the Milano-Sanremo Virtual Experience and the Giro d'Italia Virtual were born," said Paolo Bellino, CEO and General Manager of Giro organisers RCS Sport.
"The next step was to devise a unique, innovative and engaging format: The Challenge of Stars. It's an event with great television potential that will enable all fans, also thanks to the Bkool platform, to live a true professional cycling experience and will enable top riders to compete in unprecedented challenges on this new terrain," he said.
Bkool CEO Benito Vázquez added: "After many years holding indoor cycling competitions for amateurs on our platform, recently Bkool has also been organizing competitions for professionals, broadcast via different media, which have been a great hit.
"We are convinced that our simulator's technological capabilities, fused with RCS Sport's experience and knowledge, will mark a new milestone in the development of this type of competition, offering a groundbreaking format that is very attractive to the general public and professionals alike, as these cycling stars have never been seen competing like this."
Sprinters set to compete (of a likely eight riders)
- Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
- Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic)
- Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
- Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal)
- Matteo Trentin (CCC Team)
Climbers set to compete (of a likely eight riders):
- Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo)
- Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)
- Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic)
- Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)
- Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal)
- Simon Geschke (CCC Team)
#SaveTheDate 23-24/05/2020The best Pros are going to compete in #TheChallengeofStars, the 1st virtual tournament in partnership with @BkoolSport. 8 climbers + 8 sprinters will face off in knockout challenges to reveal who is the strongest in their categories. #StayTuned pic.twitter.com/znCjlhxolPMay 12, 2020