Cycling esports was officially approved as the newest discipline in cycling at the UCI Congress in September 2018 and was the first virtual sport to be awarded official discipline status by an International Governing Body.
Zwift and the UCI are now closely collaborating to develop cycling esports – a sport that combines the virtual and the physical is equal across gender, accessible to all, and most importantly, fun.
There are over 180 esports competitions every day hosted on the Zwift platform, alongside year-round elite competitions. Recently, the delivery of the inaugural Virtual Tour de France in July 2020 provided a historic moment in the development of the discipline, showcasing Cycling Esports to over 14 million people around the world.
With over two billion gamers globally, the growth of esports is on a collision course with traditional sports disciplines. Through cycling esports, the UCI and Zwift aim to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds by creating sporting experiences that are fun to play and viewing experiences that are fun to watch.
The UCI Esports World Championships will be staged on 9 December 2020 and will take place within Zwift’s Watopia, the world’s biggest virtual cycling destination. Both men’s and women’s races will take place on identical courses, over equal distances, and for equal prize money. Participants will be competing entirely remotely from their own residences or training bases, and the event will be broadcast around the world. The winners will receive a newly designed esports World Champion rainbow jersey and the prestige of being crowned the first Cycling Esports World Champion.
As there is no established nations ranking system for cycling esports, the following criteria were used to select National Federations and determine the number of automatic places to allocate:
The longlist of National Federations:
- The most represented nations on the Zwift platform (amateur and professional) – this criterion is a measure of the Cycling Esports participation base in the respective country. It will help to drive an engaged audience for the event.
- The UCI Road Rankings (as stated on the UCI website, June 2020) – were used as a rough benchmark for elite rider nations rankings – however, it is anticipated that the event will also be applicable for athletes across other cycling disciplines.
Allocation of places to each National Federation on the longlist was then determined by the number of riders that meet the rider eligibility criteria:
- The number of riders from that nation in the UCI registered testing pool.
- The number of elite riders already on the Zwift platform.
- The number of elite riders with prior experience in Zwift esports events.
As a result of the process outlined above:
- 20 National Federations have been granted automatic places for men, with South Africa being allocated two slots,
- 13 National Federations have been granted automatic places for women, with South Africa being allocated two slots.
The UCI stipulates that only riders registered within the 2020 UCI RTP (registered testing pool), of which South Africa has 1 woman and 10 men, are eligible for selection.
Riders registered in the 2020 UCI RTP include:
- Moolman Pasio, Ashleigh
- De Bod, Stefan
- Dlamini, Nicholas
- Gibbons, Ryan
- Hatherly, Alan
- Impey, Daryl
- Janse Van Rensburg, Reinardt
- Meintjes, Louis
- Smit, Willie
- Thomson, Jay
- Venter, Jaco
Though having been allocated 2 slots for each of the Women’s and Men’s events, CyclingSA is only able to select one woman from the RTP. For the Men’s race selection, several riders from the RTP made themselves unavailable due to their season preparations for the 2021 World Tour, injuries or did not provide the necessary data required by the selectors.
Team South Africa will be represented by Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Ryan Gibbons and Daryl Impey. We wish our Elite riders the best of luck with the inaugural UCI Esports World Championships.
The UCI Esports World Championships being held on Wednesday, 9 December, with the Women’s race at 14h40 and the Men at 15h45. We will share further information regarding the live coverage once Supersport have released the broadcast detaills.