Loes Adegeest of The Netherlands and Jay Vine of Australia have been crowned 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Champions after conquering the gruelling Knickerbocker circuit in Zwift's New York. Both riders will have the honour of wearing the first UCI Cycling Esports World Champion Jerseys featuring the iconic rainbow stripes for the next 12 months.
As expected, the race was attritional from the start. Entering the final lap, only a small group of women remained in contention. Defending champion, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio found herself isolated amongst strong teams from the USA, Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark. It was the USA however, that seemed determined to test the field, launching a string of stinging attacks, with Katheryn Curi really impressing with an incredibly strong solo effort heading into the final climb up the New York QOM.
Almost cruelly, Curi was caught at the base of the climb with 2.1km to go, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio taking to the front straight away, launching a stinging attack on the first steep ramp to reduce the group down to just four riders. Crucially, the USA was missing from this group. It was Loes Adegeest who deployed her feather PowerUp at the crucial moment at 200m to go to take the title!
"It was better than a dream come true!" said Loes Adegeest after the race. "I knew I had to save the feather for the last section if I was going to win the sprint. I saw Ashleigh use hers further down and knew my chances were getting better!"
Starting immediately after the women finished, the men's race started hard and fast, forcing many of the pre-race favourites to come to the front early on.
A number of speculative attacks were launched early on, including a two-up break featuring Tomoaki Takasugi of Japan and Rick Ottema of The Netherlands but they were safely brought back with 26km to go. The UCI Cycling Esports World Championships is longer than most elite-level esports races in the Zwift Racing League Premier Division, so many were looking to keep their powder dry and make use of the draft in the bunch. Defending champion, Jason Osborne (Germany) was never far from the front of the race.
Perhaps the most dangerous move came with 15km remaining. The group of Pirotte (Belgium), Kepplinger (Austria), Fjellheim (Norway), Seggebruch (USA), Bouchard (Canada) & Maertens (Germany) saw some of the bigger nations caught on the back foot. Indeed, Australia were aware of the danger and took to the head of the peloton in a bid to close the gap. 2021 Zwift Academy finalist, Sam Hill put in a huge effort but with little support from other nations, the gap remained steady at around 15 seconds.
However, having worked together so well, the lead group began to fracture heading into the final 3km of the race. Kepplinger was the first to launch his attack and looked good with just 500 meters to go. However, it was cruel luck for the Austrian as he was caught by a charging peloton. Defending champion, Jason Osborne burst from the bunch with an unexpected Aero PowerUp and looked set to defend his title in sensational fashion. However, the Australian team weren't done yet. Jay Vine burst through to take the title with teammate Freddy Ovett pipping Osborne to the line for second. What a finish!