It’s with great pleasure that we are able to confirm the dates and plans for the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships. 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 esports to help grow participation in our sport. This is a historic moment.David Lappartient, UCI President
Almost a year ago it was announced that Zwift would be hosting the first-ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships for 2020. It’s been a crazy year, though, and with all the UCI calendar juggling and COVID restrictions, there was uncertainty about whether the event would actually happen.
But today it was announced that the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will be held on Zwift December 8-9, 2020. This is especially good news considering the continued uncertainty surrounding the 2020 UCI Road World Championships – the races were scheduled to take place in Switzerland on September 20th, but the Swiss Federal Council has banned events uniting more than 1000 people through September 30, so an alternative venue is being sought.
There are still some key details being worked out for the inaugural Esports World Championships, but let’s dig into what we do know.
Place and Time
Events will take place on December 8-9, 2020.
Riders will compete remotely from their own homes or training bases, much like we saw in the Virtual Tour de France.
The events will take place entirely on Watopia, and men’s and women’s races will take place on identical courses over equal distances. Route details will be unveiled in the coming months.
Race winners will be determined simply by “first over the line” instead of the points systems we’ve seen in recent pro races.
The UCI will be inviting national cycling federations to take part in the 2020 event. Similar to the UCI Road World Championships, national federations will be allocated a number of places determined by certain criteria including UCI Road Rankings as of June 2020, the number of riders in the anti-doping Registered Testing Pool and the number of eligible riders on the Zwift platform.
More detailed criteria will be released which ensures that all five continents are represented for both women and men and that the maximum possible number of entries for both genders will be the same.
Automatic invitations will go to 20 national federations (Italy, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Poland, Austria, Colombia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Ireland, Japan) for the men’s event and to 13 national federations (Netherlands, Italy, Australia, France, USA, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan) for the women’s event.
Additional wildcard invitations may be awarded to individual riders by the UCI.
New Rainbow Jersey
The World Champion’s rainbow jersey is a highly-prized bit of kit for any pro cyclist, and the Esports World Championships will maintain this tradition. Winners will be awarded a newly-designed rainbow jersey to wear within Zwift. Physical jerseys will also be given to winners to wear while participating in esports competitions for the following year.
Looking to the Future
Zwift’s press release quotes CEO Eric Min:
2020 has been a big year for esports as it has helped fill the gap left by traditional sport. 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.
Clearly, Min is bullish on the future of Zwift and esports. He always has been! This year has seen Zwift racing make huge strides forward – the massive influx of pro riders on the platform, the Virtual Tour de France, and now the Esports Worlds have all brought Zwift closer to a realization of Min’s vision.
But we’re still in the early days, and there is much progress to be made. Min has his sights set on Zwift as an Olympic Esport even as Zwift takes over ZwiftPower, anti-sandbagging controls begin rolling out, and the eracing rules and hardware standards continue to evolve. It’s going to be an exciting winter!