First UCI Esports World Championships with Garmin and Tacx

Dec. 9 will be a historic day for the world of indoor cycling as the first official Esports World Championships will be organized by the UCI in collaboration with Zwift. Besides the big names from the Zwift community, top shots from the pro peloton like Edvald Boasson Hagen, Rigoberto Uran and Anna van der Breggen will join too. And to make this race in Watopia as fair as possible, all competitors ride on the same indoor trainer: the Tacx® NEO 2T Smart.

Digital Rainbow Jersey

Indoor cycling is booming. Especially this year with many people bound to their homes due to the lockdown. After some serious Esports events earlier this year that were run in place of the postponed races, like the Virtual Tour de France, it’s now time for the inaugural 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships on Zwift. There will be races in two categories: Men Elite and Woman Elite. All competitors will ride the same route in Watopia over equal distances and for equal prize money. Each rider will fight for victory from their home or training base, and just like the outdoor Worlds, the winners of both categories will be awarded with the coveted rainbow jersey. This jersey can be worn both virtually for their avatar in Zwift and in real life during UCI Cycling Esports events for the 2021 season.

The virtual World Championships will be run over 50 kilometers with 483 meters of total elevation on the Watopia Figure 8 reverse course. This popular course is modified for this event to let the riders finish on the short KOM Forward climb: 900 punchy meters with an average gradient of 5.5%, ramping up to a maximum of 8.2%. Those of you familiar with Zwift know that this might deliver a thrilling finale! When you keep in mind that Zwift is a different cookie than real-world racing, we might see a surprising outcome.

UCI President David Lappartient is looking forward to the event. “The year has certainly been a challenging one for all. Virtual races were hugely popular during the period that competitions ceased, and I truly believe in the potential of Esports to help grow participation in our sport. This is a historic moment.” Zwift CEO and Co-founder Eric Min added, “2020 has been a big year for Esports as it has helped fill the gap left by traditional sport. Moving forward we look forward to establishing this as a new discipline of the sport – not one to plug gaps. There’s a huge opportunity to grow the sport with Esports, and I’m proud that together with the UCI, we are able to lead the way.”

Level playing field

Many trainer brands can be used on the platform of Zwift, but there are some small differences between the type of trainers regarding communication time and watt reading. This is no big deal for most Zwifters but can be crucial for a race at this level, so standardization is required. To ensure a level playing field, all riders of this event use the NEO 2T Smart supplied by Garmin and Tacx. It’s the most powerful, realistic and accurate indoor trainer to date and the official trainer of many pro cyclists, like reigning Road World Champions Julian Alaphilippe and Anna van der Breggen.

The powerful resistance unit of the NEO 2T can simulate incline gradients up to 25% and sprints up to 2200 watts. Moreover, it can deliver a very high resistance when cycling at low speeds, in small gears and on very steep climbs. This enables very realistic hill climb and sprint simulations. And important for an event like this – it is the only indoor trainer that doesn’t require a calibration process, and it measures power with incredible precision. All to make sure that the riders’ data is accurate within 1% and reliable.  To make riding indoors even more realistic, it can also faithfully simulate the vibrating sensation of riding on cobblestones, gravel and many other road surfaces that are available in Zwift. The little bit of flex allowed by its frame improves the ride feel even more.

“We are thrilled to be the official trainer partner for this inaugural event,” said Susan Lyman, Garmin VP of global consumer marketing. “As a company that encourages athletes to push their limits year-round, we are excited to provide participants with state-of-the-art NEO 2T Smart trainers and be part of their success as they race to be the first-ever 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Champion.”

Big names

Not only will the best Esports riders of today join this World Championships, but also the top shots from multiple pro cycling disciplines. If you only look at the pro riders who are sponsored by Garmin and Tacx, there are already 32 riders who will participate: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Rigoberto Uran, Domenico Pozzovivo, Daryl Impey, Esteban Chaves, Michael Valgren, Alberto Bettiol, Thomas de Gendt, Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, reigning champion Anna van der Breggen and former Zwift Academy winners Ella Harris, Jessica Pratt and Tanja Erath, to mention just a few. The complete start list includes riders from 22 nations from all five continents. The 78 men and 55 women who will fill the virtual fields of this championship can be easily recognized due to their national jersey in Zwift.

But don’t underestimate the racers from the Zwift community. Both current No. 1 ranked men’s racer Holden Comeau and No. 1 ranked women’s racer Laura Matsen Ko will join this World Championship. If there’s anyone who knows all the secrets of Zwift and can beat the pros, they are the ones to watch. Especially when you consider that you can’t compare racing in Zwift with racing outdoors and that two Zwift power-ups, aka randomly awarded performance boosters, will be available during this event for each rider. The question is: Which one do you get and when are you going to use it in the most tactical way?

Listen to the pros

While you ride along with us, you can put on a podcast and listen to one of the pro riders talk about this event. Like Edvald Boasson Hagen of NTT Pro Cycling, who joins the Turbo Talks podcast and shares his thoughts on the World Championships course, the tactics and challenges of riding on Zwift, his preparation for the Worlds and more. Available now on your favorite podcast platform or via this link.

Zwift also releases a series of specially recorded podcasts with current and former world champions, including Anna van Der Breggen, Annika Langvad and more. These will be available on Zwift PowerUp Podcast recon rides so you can listen while checking out the same course the world championships will be decided upon.

Don’t miss the action

These spectacular World Championships races will be available worldwide. Tune in during the live broadcast at 7:45 CST/14:45 CET on Dec. 9.  

For US viewers, check out FloSports or follow the Zwift feed on YouTube.

We wish all of our pro riders the best of luck during this historical event!