What you need to know about the UCI cycling esports world championships
8,000 euros and a rainbow jersey going to the winners of the men's and women's UCI Zwift races on February 26.
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The second ‘Zwift worlds’ on February 26 will be aired on GCN and YouTube globally, and on Eurosport in Europe, beginning at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST. Defending UCI esports champions Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of South Africa and Olympic rower Jason Osborne of Germany are back to race on a 55km virtual course in the Zwift platform with 944m/3,097ft of climbing.
To standardize measurement, all competitors will be racing on a Wahoo Kickr 5 smart trainer, and weigh-in videos will be required to accurately capture weight for the all-important power-to-weight ratio. The Zwift game uses an algorithm that replicates the physics of outdoor racing by taking body height and weight into account along with power output and the dynamics of the virtual course and the other riders on it.
While most of the contestants are not well-known names, there are a few pro racers like Australians Freddy Ovett of Legion of Los Angeles, Sarah Gigante of Movistar, and Jay Vine of Alpecin-Fenix. Gigante was second at the first Zwift worlds, and Vine — who just won the mountains classification at Étoille de Bessèges — earned his pro contract through the Zwift Academy.
The event is a UCI sanctioned world championship.
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The 2022 UCI cycling esports worlds course, equipment, and verification
There are various ‘worlds’ in Zwift, and worlds will be held in the New York world, on the climb-heavy New York Knickerbocker course. Both men’s and women’s fields will cover 54.9km with 944m/3,097ft of climbing. The primary course feature is the 1.4km New York KOM/QOM, which averages 6.1 percent and tops out at 17 percent.
As with all smart trainers used with Zwift, the Wahoo Kickrs will add resistance on each rise and climb in the virtual course. The Kickrs also measure power output, and riders will also have to record power on a second meter as back-up verification.
For this and other big races, Zwift has its Cycling Esports Rules & Regulations, many of which are refreshingly succinct. For example, the code of conduct consists of two bullets points: “Be nice to others” and “Don’t cheat.” There is also a fair amount of detail on exactly how riders must be able to verify their power output, height, and weight.
Power Ups on tap
Power Ups are a feature of Zwift riding and racing that offer a benefit for a short amount of time. They are activated by pressing the space bar on a laptop, or via a button on the Zwift companion app. Riders can have one Power Up at a time, which they get by riding under a banner. There are Power Ups to reduce aero drag, increase the benefit of the draft, and even disappear for a few seconds.
In the 2022 worlds, there will be three types of Power Ups available:
The Van Power Up increases the draft effect by 50 percent for 30 seconds. It will appear three times during the race at the Sprint Arch at 7.3km, 29.7km and 52 km.
The Aero Power Up reduces a rider’s aero drag by 25 percent for 15 seconds. Just like when riding outside, the faster a rider goes, the more impact a reduction in drag has. The Aero Power Up will at the K/QOM Arch at 9.7km and 32.1km.
The Feather Power Up reduces a rider’s weight by 10 percent for 15 seconds. This one could be key for the course that finishes on a steep climb. It will be available at the Lap Arch at 22.5km and 44.6km.
The 177 riders
Some nations are taking this more seriously than others. The United States, for instance, is fielding nine men and 10 women. Italy, by contrast, has two men and three women.
The full rider lists can be found here.
In December 2020, Zwift worlds was raced in the Watopia world, and was won by South African Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and German Jason Osborne.
The top three female and male riders will receive cash, from 8,000 euros for first down to 2,000 euros for third.
The winners will receive actual rainbow jerseys and the ability to wear virtual rainbow jerseys on Zwift.