Virtual men's and women's Tour de France on Zwift set for July

Egan Bernal rides on the Champs Elysees at the 2019 Tour de France
Egan Bernal rides on the Champs Elysees at the 2019 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

We'll have to wait until late August for the real thing, but there will be a virtual Tour de France in July, as race organiser ASO has agreed a deal with the online cycling platform Zwift.

Details for the event have yet to be finalised but proposals from ASO, seen by Cyclingnews, set out plans for a men's and women's race, each made up of six stages.

The racing would take place across three weekends during the Tour's original dates, starting on Saturday, July 4, and finishing on Sunday, July 19. 

Before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the season, the Tour was due to start in Nice on June 27 and finish in Paris on July 19. It has been rescheduled to run from August 29-September 20

For the virtual Tour de France, Zwift is set to build new race routes, including one in Nice for the opening stage and another in Paris to mimic the traditional finale of the Tour de France on the cobbled circuit of the Champs Elysées. 

The stages, which will include a marquee mountain stage, would all be around one hour in length, and the field composed of teams of four riders. 

Cyclingnews understands that 15 teams have so far signed up for the event, while 10 television channels covering 130 countries are have signed up to broadcast the event. 

ASO's entry into the virtual cycling world follows similar e-races over the past couple of months from fellow race organisers, such as RCS Sport and Flanders Classics. 

The Digital Swiss 5 was held on the Rouvy platform last month, while a virtual Tour of Flanders was raced on Bkool in April. 

Zwift recently organised the Zwift Tour for All series, and has also hosted internal races and riders for a number of teams, including Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, and Mitchelton-Scott. 

The Zwift platform allows for drafting, meaning riders enjoy an easing of the resistance of their home trainer if they maneuver themselves behind another rider. 

Adding to the tactical and gamification element are power-ups – such as a reduction in virtual drag – that can be gained and then used at strategic moments. 

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Daniel Benson