Explained: UCI Esports Cycling World Championships
By Tim Perkin
In 2020, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), cycling’s governing body, sanctioned the first Cycling Esports World Championship. The event included some of the sport’s biggest names from across 22 countries. Star riders from the women’s field included Elinor Barker, Sarah Storey, Anna van der Breggen, and Annika Langvad, whilst the men’s field included stars such as Ed Clancy, Esteban Chaves, Rigoberto Uran, Lionel Sanders, and Luis Leon Sanchez.
This event marked the first ever occasion that riders from across the different cycling disciplines would compete on a level playing field, for the chance to win the new coveted Cycling Esports Rainbow jersey, as well as receiving a unique digital version that could be worn in-game by their subsequent avatar.
As the UCI stated “The first UCI Esports Cycling World Championships, held in 2020, was an inaugural event for the discipline and a milestone for both cycling and esports in general.”
Motivating factors for the Cycling Esports World Championships
To better understand what the driving factors were for creating the Cycling Esports World Championships the UCI explained that “With the introduction of new technology, including smart trainers and state-of-the-art software, we realised that there was an exciting opportunity for cyclists to measure up against on-line rivals from around the world in dynamic and thrilling competition formats.”
In a sport where the slightest margins can be the difference in winning and finishing second, one key challenge that the UCI and platform providers are constantly looking to improve is ensuring the correct result with finish line imagery, ensuring the correct outcome. As the UCI noted they are “actively engaged with all stakeholders to ensure that full support is provided for this new discipline and that fair and credible racing is guaranteed for all athletes.”
Fair and creditable racing is underpinned by verification. The UCI emphasised that this is a key priority and subsequently “a range of performance verification processes have been put in place for the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, whereby athletes are obliged to follow established protocols and instructions. A reporting system and collection of data points are used to allow for a clear identification of the performance authenticity and accurateness, in order to ensure a fair competition for all athletes.”
2020 edition – The first edition was contested on a 50 km course, where Jason Osborne from Germany and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio from South Africa were crowned the first Esports World Champions, completing the testing course that involved a 5.5% climb to the finish, in 1h 05′ 15” and 1h 13′ 27” respectively.
2022 edition – Following the inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships that were held in the month of December in 2020, it was decided to shift the event to the month of February, resulting in the postponement of the 2021 edition to 2022.
This time, there was the opportunity for members of the cycling community to compete and win a spot with their National Federation via a series of qualifying events and compete in the final.
The men’s race was won by Jay Vine, and the women’s race was won by Loes Adegeest.
2023 edition – The 2023 UCI Esports Cycling World Championships and third edition, was held in February, on a specifically design Scotland inspired course, mirroring the UCI Cycling World Championship festival, that was taking place later in the year, in Scotland.
Loes Adegeest successfully defended her 2022 crown by outsprinting her rivals, whilst the men’s race was won by Bjørn Andreassen.
Evolution of the events
The 2023 edition marked a change in format where the final was a three-race elimination series. Like the previous edition, qualifying races were held months before the main event, to help determine the field.
The three races that made up the final saw a select few racers compete side-by-side in Glasgow.
The first race of the final involved 100 riders, with the top 30 qualifying for the second race. The second race involved a course with a climb, where the top 10 would go through to the final. The final itself was a criterium race, which involved elimination, until the final 3 riders remained and a dual for the podium places, took place. The UCI believed the “competition format at the third edition, with three different races (“The Punch”, “The Climb” and “The Podium”), brought more thrills to the event and pushed the contenders to their limits.”
The 2024 edition will be the first time that MyWhoosh will host the event, which will take place in October, and involves a live final, where riders will be competing shoulder-to-shoulder in the same venue, in Abu Dhabi.
Work is being undertaken to create a unique event that is different from those that have come before, showcasing the different aspects of Esports cycling and utilising a points-based system to crown the overall champion. The event will be hosted on specifically designed courses, in a new world, which is currently been given the codename as “UCI World.”
Support for the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships is continually growing across the National Federations as there is a continued appetite for cycling esports as more National Federations started to understand the discipline.
The previous editions of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships were exciting and made excellent viewing with the UCI recognizing that “The events have been truly successful in terms of demonstrating an engaging and captivating new direction for the sport.
One of the many benefits of cycling esport is its accessibility, allowing athletes to participate from anywhere in the world, which have proven to be a successful concept.”
The UCI explained that bringing athletes together and allowing spectators to witness the physical performance of elite-level competitive cycling has always been a goal of the UCI and that “A true success was therefore achieved with the third edition, held in 2022, when some of the top-tier esports cyclists came together and raced in a live final (a UCI Cycling Esports World Championships themed live studio), bridging the gap between the live element and the virtual race taking place on the platform.” This key success factor will be repeated in the 2024 edition.
The three-stage format saw a move away from the traditional scratch race and helped maximise the viewing experience for the audience, aiming to increase the engagement with viewers from across the world, ultimately adding a new dimension of interest for the cycling esport discipline.
MyWhoosh and the 4th edition of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship
The 4th edition of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship is going to be hosted in October by MyWhoosh, with the world’s top 20 male and female cyclists competing shoulder-to-shoulder in a live final, taking place in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
With a unique race format based on a points system, the outcome won’t be fully known until the last rider crosses the finish line, drama and excitement to the final pedal stroke. It’s going to be a spectacle and it’s hosted exclusively on MyWhoosh.
The event is going to be competitive and to make it to the final in Abu Dhabi, is going to be an achievement in itself.
There will be approximately 30 Cycling Federations competing for the honour of having one of their riders crowned Cycling Esports World Champion. In total, there will be 300 riders, evenly split between men and women competing. Of the 150, 120 will be selected by their Federations, with MyWhoosh providing the opportunity for 30 riders, to qualify from the community, giving everyone the chance to represent their country and go for glory.
To ensure the event is unique, a new world has been specifically developed. Courses have been carefully designed with input from the world’s leading cycling coaches, to specifically test different attributes of the riders, to ensure the winner will be the best overall rider.
This edition of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship will consist of a qualifying round and the final. The qualifying round is referred to as the “semi-final.” The 150 riders will compete in the semi-final where only the top 20 riders from both the men’s and women’s races, will make it to the final in Abu Dhabi.
Both the semi-final and final will utilise a points system. Points are awarded for different things, such as being quickest on a segment, first on a lap, or first up a climb. In the semi-final, the top 20 riders, or more specifically, the 20 riders with most points, will qualify for the final.
In the final, all riders will start with zero points and the World Champion will be the person with the most accumulated points from the final three stage races, which are undertaken consecutively.
About the semi-final
The qualifying round, or semi-final as it is called, will consist of two stages, where riders will compete within the relative “comfort” of their own homes. I use the phrase “comfort” loosely, as these intense races means that the riders will be anything but “comfortable.”
The first stage, will see riders contest a 9 km circuit, which has a testing climb that is 4-minutes in length. The climb has been designed so it can be tackled by the different type of riders, sprinters and climbers alike.
The course has been designed so that there are points available for those who reach the base of the climb first, as well as points available at the top of the climb, so strategy is fundamental to success. Do you race for the points at the bottom of the climb, or save your strength for the climb itself, looking to score maximum points at the summit? Or are you ambitious enough to go for both?
In addition to points available on the road, at various sections, you do get points based on your position across the finish line. The finish line is not at the top of the climb, so you need to save some energy over the climb, to race to the finish. It is these strategic, real-time choices that will determine the results.
Stage two involves 4 laps on a 4 km criterium circuit, with points available for the first person across the line after each lap, with double points available on the final lap. There is one key point to note which is the finish line on each lap is at the top of a 50-second climb, at 16% gradient, which is steep, to say the least.
The riders who finish in the top 20, once all their points are accumulated, will proceed to the final.
About the final
Those that qualify, will be invited to Abu Dhabi to contest the final. The final will consist of three stages, and each stage will last between 15 to 25-minutes.
Stage one, will be a sprint stage. The riders will have 15-minutes to set the fastest time on a defined 300-meter segment, which is encapsulated in a 1.7 km circuit. The fastest rider will score the maximum points and points will cascade down, according to your position.
This is a highly tactical stage because riders could opt wait to the very last moment in the race and sprint through the segment, ensuring no one else can set a faster time. The risk is that something unforeseen may happen, missing the opportunity to score a large number of points. Alternatively, riders could go early and set a fast time and patiently wait to see if it is beaten, saving their energy for the later races.
There are factors that could impact your result such as sprinting in a group versus attempting to set a quick, time on your own. Sprinting in a group means there is the advantage of drafting, which would impact your time, this is a very tactical race.
Stage two and stage three are identical to the those of the semi-final, meaning that with the points system in play, you won’t know who the winner is until all the results are tallied together and with a range of skills required, anyone can be capable of winning the Cycling Esports World Championship.
MyWhoosh have ensured that there are 30 places available at the event for both men and women from the MyWhoosh community to win and be a part of the World Championships. A series of events will be launched nearer the time where the winners will qualify and these riders will then ride for their respective Federations, falling under their governance.
All athletes competing in the World Championships on MyWhoosh must undergo MyWhoosh’s independent verification process and have a MyWhoosh Power Passport.
The Power Passport is a personalised performance indicator and central to MyWhoosh’s verification process and consequently, having a Power Passport is a mandatory requirement to enter any competitive racing event on the platform, include the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship.
To obtain your Power Passport, you have to undertake a dynamic assessment that surpasses traditional testing and is divided into different challenges, allowing MyWhoosh to validating your race results are within acceptable parameters, based on your physiological performances.
To ensure that racing is fair and that the playing field is as level as it possibly can be, finalists will all be racing using the same smart trainer. MyWhoosh have partnered with Elite, who will be supplying their premium trainer, the Justo, pronounced “joosto” for everyone to use. This is one of the top trainers on the market at this moment of time where its power meter accuracy is within 1%. With it’s flywheel weighing it at 6.2kg, and a large pulley, connected to the flywheel via a belt, the smart trainer provides a really smooth and steady ride.
For the semi-finals, riders will use their own smart trainers, that will need to meet the requirements.
Esports cycling is evolving, and this is no better reflected than in the different iterations of the World Championships, which continue to push riders to new levels. As the sport grows with continued engagement by audiences and National Federation alike, the level of competition is increasing that thus to win, will take more than simply generating the most watts and being tactically astute will also be key to success, particularly with the new format.
To sum up the key points about the 2024 edition, are as follows:
- 300 athletes (150 men and 150 women) from around 30 Federations will compete in a points-based event, where points are awarded by various defined means.
- The semi-final, which is a two-stage event, sees the top 20 riders, who have accumulated the most points proceeding to the final.
- The final will be hosted in Abu Dhabi.
- The final, will consist of 20 athletes, competing side-by-side, tackling three consecutive stages,
- The winner is the person with the most accumulated points, achieved by winning sprints, laps and climbs.
It’s an exciting format that will deliver entertainment to the last.
About the author
Tim has a passion for cycling and it was integral to regaining fitness after an arduous battle with cancer. Tim is the founder of Mountain Massif, who host esports cycling events. Over the years, Tim has written about a range of cycling topics, including testing and reviewing the major smart trainers. In addition, he has been fortunate to ride and interview some of the sports leading figures such as Tour de France winner Andy Schleck and sprint legend André Greipel. Follow on Instagram @Mountain_Massif