British Cycling partners with Zwift to launch first British eRacing Championship

It’s hard to know whether or not to refer to this as ‘esports’ news, but next February British Cycling will hold their inaugural eRacing British Championships – essentially a virtual reality event based on the cycling app Zwift.

The competition is open to everyone – though to actually compete in the finals and have a shot at winning the national title you’ll have to be a British Cycling member – and will enable all and sundry to participate using just their bike, a turbo trainer and Zwift, which harnesses the power of technology and virtual reality to simulate cycling on real roads.

Despite being something of a virtual reality event, however, the eRacing championship behaves like plenty of other esports tournament out there. There will be preliminary rounds in which anyone can take part before the field is whittled down to a final live event – though in this case there will be separate events for different each age and gender groups.

One of the great unknowns for the many traditional sports who are embarking on esports ventures – like football, NBA or NHL – is how the sport and the esport fit together. Aside from the fact that the sport is actually rendered in game form, what exactly is the link between football and FIFA 19? Certainly it doesn’t come from the players, whose skill sets are impressive but won’t lead to them stepping out at Wembley anytime soon.

British Cycling’s attempt sits closer to something like Formula One’s Esports Series, where the mass participation qualifying rounds may throw up genuinely great cyclists who may turn out to be hidden gems. Given this isn’t really an ‘esport’ in the traditional (!) sense and the apparatus used by the participants is a real bike, it means those who excel can be given a chance to do it for real.

Jonathan Rigby, Commercial Director at British Cycling, said: “The esports market is particularly exciting for cycling as it enables so many more people to participate and be active.

“We are also excited about what this could mean for identifying talent. We are proud to have a wealth of gifted riders competing on the world stage and we are confident that Zwift technology will enable us to unearth more future stars.”

This is part of a wider partnership between Zwift and British Cycling, whose riders will benefit from tailored training programmes on the Zwift app, embracing a technology with the potential to revolutionise the sport in the future. For now, the eRacing British Championships shows the possibilities cycling has in the world of esports and VR – all while keeping cyclists on a real bike.

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Parker Sikes
Parker Sikes 34 posts

Parker Sikes is an American student studying advertising in London. Follow her on Twitter at @sikespar.

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