The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has recently announced that it will be creating an esports World Championship as well as drawing up rules to govern virtual cycling races for digital or virtual gaming platforms such as Zwift. In recent years, virtual bike racing and training have grown very popular thanks to improved technology that helps cyclists to cycle in their homes and avoid such setbacks as busy roads, time restrictions or inclement weather.
As it stands, a number of virtual cycling races have already been held and broadcast online and so far, the number of fans that have been drawn to such events are enough to make it a viable option for such things as World Championships – for instance, in 2018 we already had the CVR World Cup series for both men and women. The CVR World Cup’s final race was held in Vancouver with donations creating a prize pool of over a whopping $50,000.
That was enough to motivate the UCI’s recent lobbying efforts to have esports included in the Olympics as well as other international sporting events. The most recent case of this was in the summer when the organization sent representatives to the esports Forum that was organized by the International Olympic Committee – while nothing has been confirmed at this moment, the UCI is determined to be prepared for when, or if, esports will be officially included in the Olympics.
As for the UCI esports World Championship, there is also no specific timeline for when the event will be held. The format of the racing games is also yet to be specified. Not to worry though – the UCI is keen to be involved and this will probably speed up the process in one way or the other.
“We’ve created the e-MTB world championships, with the first held in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada in 2019 but esports is something else. We’re very interested in virtual sports as well as traditional outdoor racing,” the UCI’s president, David Lappartient, explained in a recent interview. “We’re looking to the future of every of aspect of cycling and so were keen to help virtual cycling develop. We want to ensure that happens properly by creating some clear guidelines and rules, including anti-doping rules. Cycling as an esport is different to many other sports because it’s not virtual, you have to push on the pedals, so it’s a real physical effort. We could one day see Peter Sagan competing in esport races. I think that would be great for cycling.”
Already, virtual racing, also known as the sweaty esports, is becoming more and more popular thanks to digital platforms such as Bkool, Zwift, Rouvy and TrainerRoad all of which have been attracting hundreds of thousands of users. Zwift, for instance, has amassed close to 600,000 cyclists since it was launched in 2015 and according to its 2017 annual report, the platform’s users pedaled over 125 million miles in the aggregate of the year. That should be sufficient enough to get the attention of major sporting events such as the Olympics.