Electricity and cycling has been a hot topic over the past few years and now the UCI is looking to take another step in that direction with the first-ever Cycling Esports World Championships in 2020.
Now, you may be thinking, "Hang on, haven't we just had the first eMTB World Championships
in Mont Sainte Anne?" And you would be right, but this isn't about bikes with electrical motors riding outside but instead indoor trainers hooked up to video games. That's right, the wait is finally over to be World Champion at exercising. Inside your house.
All joking aside, esports is a big business with the global economy expected to top $1 billion this year for the first time, so it's easy to see why the cycling world wants a piece of that pie. Other sports have already embraced esports such as soccer, through the FIFA games, and NFL through the Madden franchise. There has, in fact, already been some cycling racing in this area too with British Cycling holding its own E-Cycling World Championship last year and handing national jerseys to Cameron Jeffers and Rosamund Bradbury.
Zwift have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UCI and together they will be responsible for the governance and development of cycling esports as a new discipline starting as soon as next year. At the moment, we haven't heard of any concrete plans for mountain bikes to be involved but the press release did mention that "different formats of racing, for individuals and teams, will be tested". Let's also not forget that Zwift debuted their mountain bike software including steering at Eurobike this year, so it's definitely not beyond the realm of possibility.
Zwift will now work towards building reliable hardware that can be sanctioned by the UCI, is resilient to mechanical fraud and includes a "rider identification system, including height and weight." The date and venue of the World Championships are yet to be confirmed but the UCI and Zwift have also agreed that a maximum of 15 National Championships will be organised as well as Continental Championships. The Zwift application will be the only program used for all these events.