Zwift, the global online fitness platform for cyclists, triathletes, and runners, is excited to announce the third UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, to be held on Saturday, February 18, 2023. The races, which start at 6 pm GMT/10 AM PST will see 200 of the world’s best cyclists across many cycling disciplines including esports specialists, from 23 nations take the start line on Zwift’s brand-new Scotland map. This year, a new racing format is front and center, that will produce exciting viewing, and fierce racing.
We’ve pulled together a complete guide to the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, including rider start sheets, broadcaster information, and a race guide, to help you enjoy this landmark sporting event.
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Cycling esports is one of the disciplines of cycling governed by the UCI. The 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will be the third edition to be held after the new discipline was first added to the list of the UCI’s sanctioned events in December 2020.
Cycling esports is an athletic competition where the real-world efforts of the competitors power their avatars in Zwift’s virtual environment. Riders will all be competing on the latest generations of Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainers which intelligently respond to the changes in virtual terrain and race situations, simulating the draft of other riders and gradients of the climbs and descents. Riders can choose from all available road bike and wheel options on Zwift, which will all be neutralized to have the same performance characteristics, and all riders will race in their nation’s virtual team kit.
As in all Zwift racing, athletes racing the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships can deploy PowerUps, adding a layer of gamification, strategy, and viewer entertainment to the physical contest. In most Zwift racing, PowerUps are randomized and athletes have to strategize on the fly with what they receive. At the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, all athletes will be awarded the same PowerUps: the Breakaway Burrito in the first and third races, and the Anvil in the second race. When deployed, the Breakaway Burrito disables drafting for all riders in a small radius around the competitor for 10 seconds, taking away a key advantage. The Anvil makes a Zwifter heavier for 30 seconds. Extra weight can be a significant advantage on descents, and the second stage of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will feature a lot of descending.
Because all racers will receive the same PowerUps, the strategy for deploying them will factor heavily into the racing action, helping a racer escape on a climb, win a sprint, or save some energy. A complete guide to Zwift PowerUps can be found here.
The discipline of Cycling esports is still new, but there are already specialist riders emerging – cyclists who are fierce on-bike competitors and who have also masterfully learned the unique tactics of racing esports events on Zwift. Many compete in the WTRL Zwift Racing League. Unlike other UCI world championship events, the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships offered a unique qualification pathway that gave any Zwifter the opportunity to qualify for the Championships and represent their National Federation through a series of Continental Qualifier races.
The winner of the men’s and women’s events will be awarded the UCI Cycling Esports World Champions jersey incorporating the coveted rainbow stripes. Winners will earn the right to wear a physical jersey during sanctioned esports races until the 2024 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships. Alongside this, the winning athletes will also be able to wear a digital version of the UCI Cycling Esports World Champion’s rainbow jersey while on the Zwift platform.
Zwift and the UCI collaborated to create a brand new racing format for the 2023 Cycling Esports World Championships. The new multi-discipline format features three races contested within a 75-minute period.
The first of the three races, called The Punch, will be held on the Rolling Highlands course, a 14.1 kilometer course with 105 meters of rolling climbs that never give competitors a chance to rest. The new course is part of Zwift’s Scotland map, which was built for the 2023 Cycling Esports World Championships. The rollercoaster-like roads will narrow the field down from 100 starters to only the first 30 riders across the line.
After a short break, the top 30 finishers from the first race will start the second race, The Climb, a hill climb scratch race held on Scotland’s City and the Sgurr course. This 8.6 kilometer course with 161 meters of punishing climbing per lap will challenge racers to repeatedly climb the toughest climb in the new Scotland world. Only the top ten finishers will advance to the third stage.
The third and final race of the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, The Podium, will take place on the Glasgow Crit Circuit, a 3 kilometer loop with 33 meters of climbing. In a first for world championship cycling esports, this final race will feature an elimination format. Popular in track cycling, elimination racing moves the action from the front of the pack to the back; on each lap, the last rider across the finish line will be pulled out of the race. When the field has been reduced from 10 to three riders, the last remaining cyclists will race for the win and remaining podium spots.
200 of the World's Best Cycling Esports competitors will be taking to the start across two multi-format races. The full start lists for both fields can be found here.
Lionel Vujasin (BEL) – An experienced cross-discipline rider, Lionel competes on the eracing powerhouse team Canyon Esports. He’s competed in numerous high-level Cycling esport competitions, including a win at the last edition of the Zwift Grand Prix, where he deployed an anvil at exactly the right time to ride away from the field.
Victor Campanearts (BEL) -- As one of a few professional road cyclists to take the start of the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, there’s no question that Victor’s legs pack significant punch; the 2016 Belgian national road champion has raced multiple grand tours. He also held the world hour record. Even if his strength is beyond question, he has not raced on Zwift as other riders and may not have the tactical prowess to pull off a win on the virtual roads of Scotland.
James Barnes (NZ) – A member of NeXT eSports powered by Enshored, James is a fierce competitor who won an Alpe du Zwift hill climb in 2022 by maintaining 397 watts for 36 minutes. Watch out for the Kiwi rider in any sustained effort.
Freddy Ovett (AUS) – Freddy shot to Zwift prominence during the Virtual Tour de France in 2020 and has consistently placed high in all the Zwift races he’s participated in since, including a second-place finish in the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships. He’s of the best sprinters in esports racing, but still able to get over climbs with the front group in any race.
Jason Osborne (DE) – One of the race favorites, Osborne won UCI Cycling Esports World Championships in 2020 and was on the podium in 2022. Those results led to him earning a professional contract with Deceuninck-Quick-Step in 2021. The German is now on Alpecin-Deceuninck and came to cycling from the brutally hard sport of rowing, where he was a world champion in 2018 and an Olympic silver medalist in the 2021 games.
Loes Adegeest (NED) – The defending champion will enter worlds as a favorite to repeat her 2022 feat. After several years of racing for continental teams in Europe, Loes has stepped up to the world tour for the 2023 season with FDJ Suez Futuroscope, and will be hungry to kick off her season with a win at UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
Mary Wilkinson (GB) – Mary came up through Zwift community racing and is a master of the unique tactics in Cycling Esports. Mary was a finalist in the 2018 Zwift Academy, The former runner went on to win the British Cycling National Masters Road Race Championships in her age group, and has raced at high levels on Zwift, including the KISS Super League as a member of the Zwift Academy Dream Team.
Zoe Langham (GB) – Zoe finished third in the 2022 Cycling Esports World Championships, narrowly missing the win, and will enter this year’s race hungry to improve her result. She is a talented road racer with the UK women’s cycling team Pro-Noctis. She races on Zwift with team Wahoo-Le Col. Not content just to ride bikes, Zoe recently graduated medical school and is completing her training.
Jaqui Godbe (USA) – Jacquie Godbe is racing her second UCI Esports World Championships. Jacquie is a medical resident living in California and also has a PhD in chemistry where her thesis was "Design Rules to Control Mechanical Properties in 3D Hydrogels for Optimal Neuron Growth." Before she got into virtual cycling, she was a professional triathlete and a swimmer before that.
Kristen Kulchinsky (USA) – Kristen is a Zwift Esports specialist with the legendary American team Twenty24. She is the top-ranked woman on Zwift Power, and finished ninth in Esport Worlds in 2022, making her a continual threat for the podium in a race that will heavily favor racers used to the unique tactics of Zwift racing. When she isn’t racing on Zwift, Kulchinsky creates jewelry at her studio.