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Zwift signs agreement with UCI to hold first Esports World Championships

Published September 26, 2019

YORKSHIRE, United Kingdom (BRAIN) — Bike racing avatars will presumably earn the right to don virtual rainbow jerseys following the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, to be held next year. Zwift, the indoor cycling platform, announced an agreement with the International Cycling Union to provide the exclusive platform for the first Esport Worlds.

Zwift received a $120 million Series B funding round late last year; the investment was meant to be spent on creating an esports racing schedule. In January Zwift launched the KISS Super League, an esports league that features professional athletes.

Zwift and the UCI have worked together for several years. Among other partnerships, Zwift has created virtual UCI Road World Championships courses for each of the last three events, including the event this week in Yorkshire. Zwift is also a major sponsor of the Yorkshire event.

"We have been looking at the emergence of esports for some time with Zwift," said David Lappartient, the president of the UCI. "As the governing body for the sport, we need to remain open to technical innovations and change, and to remain relevant to all audiences. Zwift is a platform that is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. However, there is a particularly exciting opportunity through esports 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."

"The beauty of creating a new cycling discipline is that we have a blank slate and no limitations," said Craig Edmondson, the CEO of Zwift Esports. "Parity is incredibly important to us at Zwift and together with the UCI we will be working to create equal competition for both men and women. This means the same number of races, the same coverage for races, and of course, equal prize money. We will set the standard for fair play and equality."

Zwift said sustainability and accessibility are two benefits of esports. "By removing some of the associated logistical costs around traditional events, Zwift Esports presents a cost-effective way for brands to access the sport, and an entirely new opportunity to create a fan base for teams and riders," the company said in an announcement Thursday.

UCI plans to implement a new rulebook for cycling esports in the coming year. The integration of cycling esports into the UCI Constitution was approved by the Federation's Congress in September 2018.

Under terms of memorandum of understanding between the UCI and Zwift, the organizations will work together to establish a hardware program "that is reliable enough to be used in events sanctioned by the UCI, a performance verification program that will validate a rider's performance and ward against technological fraud, and a rider identification system, including height and weight. Moreover, different formats of racing, for individuals and teams, will be tested. The UCI Regulations will be updated accordingly," according to a UCI statement.

The UCI and Zwift agreed that a maximum of 15 esport national championships will be organised in select countries next year, as well as continental championships; these competitions will act as qualification events for the world championships. The Zwift application will be the only program used for all these events.

The UCI will open a bidding process to determine the platform providers for esport world championships after next year's.

Topics associated with this article: Racing & Sponsorship

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