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UCI Cycling Esports World Championships

UCI Cycling Esports World Championships
Courtesy photo: Velonews.com

By Robert L. Herron, MA, CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP |

Esports hit another landmark yesterday, as the inaugural men’s and women’s UCI Cycling Esports World Championships took place.  This was the first esports cycling event officially sanctioned by a governing body for the sport.

The event took place in Watopia, a 50 km course that exists virtually on the Zwift platform and has an elevation gain of 483 m. The platform creates a gamified version of virtual racing that takes place on an indoor-cycling trainer. Video-game-like avatars are created for each of the 132 racers in this event and the entire thing was livestreamed over several streaming platforms (YouTube’s stream recorded here).

Jason Osborne (men’s) and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (women’s) were the winners, taking home a virtual and physical rainbow jersey – typical of UCI championship winners.  Osborne is an Olympic rower for Germany and plans to continue his training to compete in the Tokyo Olympics that have been rescheduled for summer 2021.

Unique to esports that are simulated racing (cars and bicycles), is the direct translation between the virtual activity and the competitors’ real-world actions. In esport cycling, the athletes are truly cycling. And while not experiencing many of the stressors of competing outside in a peloton, the virtual environment removes the barriers of distance, travel, and event type – allowing people to compete against each other from wherever they live all over the world. 

Elinor Barker, an Olympic and world champion in team pursuit, stated, “It’s the only race in which I’ll ever race the Olympic and world champion on the road (Anna van der Breggen), a multiple world champion on the track (Kirsten Wild), and also a multiple Paralympic champion (Sarah Storey), in the same place; in the same race.”

Zwift provides performance data recorded through its platform. Ashleigh averaged 4.4 w/kg over 1:13:27 race time and Jason 4.7 w/kg over 1:05:15. So, you can certainly see these athletes are performing well in the esport setting relative to the standard sport.  

It will be interesting to see how the esports that have traditional sport counter parts, evolve, collaborate, and expand in popularity over time. For esport cyclist, the training and sport science support requirements will be similar to that of the traditional sport; which means more opportunity for those in the related fields to contribute to athletic success.    

Robert L. Herron is a faculty member at the United States Sports Academy.  Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). rherron@ussa.edu


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