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UCI Esports World Championships 2020 – Preview

Zwift will host the UCI esports world championships
The inaugural UCI Esports World Championships will take place December 9 (Image credit: Zwift)

The inaugural UCI Esports World Championships are coming on Wednesday and there's a star-studded entry list for the races, set to be held in the Zwift world of Watopia. 

The events, which were announced during the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire last year, will see plenty of real-world pros take on the 50-kilometre course, after a season which has seen a boom in online riding thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Here, we take a look at the competitors, the course, the powerups, and the rules of the 2020 UCI Esports World Championships.

The riders

Competitors represent 22 nations across the two races, with 78 riders in the men's race and 54 in the women's race. There are entries from South Africa, Canada, Colombia, USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the 15 European countries you'd expect to see on the start list.

In the men's race, Belgium has the largest squad with nine riders, while the USA (eight) and Australia (seven) follow. The largest women's team is the USA (nine), with Australia, Germany and Great Britain all on six.

The Belgian pair of Victor Campenaerts and Thomas De Gendt are among the notable men taking part, while Colombia also bring a strong team which includes Esteban Chaves and Rigoberto Urán.

Other star names starting the men's race include Tom Pidcock (Great Britain), 2019 Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol (Italy), Jack Haig (Australia), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) and time trial specialist Lawson Craddock (USA).

Double road Worlds champion Anna van der Breggen headlines a super-strong Dutch three-woman team along with Annemiek Van Vleuten and Kirsten Wild.

They'll be joined by Annika Langvad (Denmark), 14-time Paralympic gold winner Sarah Storey (Great Britain), Lisa Brennauer (Germany), climber Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (South Africa), and Lauren Stephens (USA).

The route and rules

The 50-kilometre course that both the men's and women's peloton will tackle takes in the figure-eight reverse course on the fictional Zwift island of Watopia. Total elevation gain is 483 metres with two climbs along the way – the Zwift KOM reverse (2.5km at 1.8 per cent) and the Zwift KOM (0.9km at 5 per cent), with a finish atop the KOM to round things off.

If you've ridden on Zwift before, then you'll likely be familiar with the route and the climbs, so you know exactly what the riders will be going through on their turbo trainers on Wednesday. The women's race kicks off first at 2:40pm CET, while the men's race starts at 3:45pm CET.

Two of Zwift's powerups will be available during the race – the Aero powerup and the Lightweight powerup. Aero makes you more aerodynamic for a 15-second spell, useful for a sprint or attack, while Lightweight reduces your weight by 10 per cent for 15 seconds, which will come in handy on the climbs.

Each rider will compete on the same equipment, so there will be no power discrepancies from model to model. They have all received Tacx NEO 2T smart trainers to race on, ensuring a fair battle for the Esports rainbow jersey. In Zwift, all equipment is standardised too, so no TT helmets, disc wheels or the famous Tron bikes.

Prize money comes in at €8,000 for the winner of each race, with the remaining two podium spots awarding €4,000 and €2,000, respectively. The champions will also receive a digital world champion's jersey, which they will then be able to wear during sanctioned virtual races.

How to watch

The races will be streamed live on Zwift's Youtube and Facebook channels. Remember, the women's race kicks off at 2:40pm CET (8:40am EST), while the men's race starts at 3:45pm CET (9:45am EST).

If you live outside a broadcast zone or are on holiday outside your country and find that the live streams to be geo-restricted, you can get around this by getting access to them by simulating being back in your home country via a 'virtual private network', or VPN, for your laptop, tablet or mobile.

TechRadar tested hundreds of VPNs and recommends the number-one VPN currently available as Express VPN. With ExpressVPN, you can watch on many devices at once including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets, etc. 

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