Online training and racing platform, Zwift, has announced terms with the world’s cycling governing body, the UCI, to host the first ever UCI Cycling e-Sports World Championships in 2020.
Three UCI Road World Championships have already been hosted on the platform, with users collectively riding more than two million miles on the courses.
UCI President David Lappartient revealed the governing body has been working with Zwift on the emergence of e-Sports for some time. “As a governing body for the sport, we need to remain open to technical innovations and change, and to remain relevant to all audiences,” he explained.
“Zwift is a platform that is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. However, there is a particularly exciting opportunity through e-Sports as we look to attract a younger audience to cycling. Together we have an opportunity to support a fitter youth, through the creation of a new sustainable sport.”
Zwift first dipped a toe in the e-Sports market in January with the launch of the KISS Super League, the first e-Sports league to feature professional athletes.
“Earlier this year, we marked our ambition to develop an e-Sports platform, but I think it’s much more than that. We are looking to establish a new cycling discipline,” adds Zwift’s CEO and Co-Founder Eric Min. “This partnership is a significant leap in that journey as we move further towards our ambition of delivering competition at the highest level in sport. We are at the very beginning of a long and exciting road here at Zwift as we look to establish a new and innovative discipline for cycling.”
According to fellow Zwift CEO Craig Edmondson, Parity is of key importance. Zwift and UCI will be working together to create equal competition for both men and women, including the same number of races, same coverage for races and equal prize money.
Sustainability and accessibility are two other driving factors behind Zwift’s move into e-Sports, in the way that removing some associated logistical costs around traditional events presents a cost effective way for brands to access the sport.
This rings true for Canyon’s Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships and ZCC Team Manager, Rhys Howell. “The low barrier to entry was one of the most compelling reasons why we decided to form the first professional cycling e-Sports team with Canyon ZCC.” He believes starting Canyon ZCC was a ‘no-brainer’ of an opportunity.
Reaching a new fan base and audience is also part of Zwift’s e-Sports mission, echoed yesterday by the takeover of transport hubs and a local pub with unmissable marketing in a bid to take its virtual cycling platform to the masses.
The first UCI Cycling e-Sports World Championships will take place in 2020, with official formats, location and details of qualifying events due to be announced over the coming months.