Zwift’s esports series heralds an exciting 2019 for cycling fans

After the announcement earlier this month that the inaugural British eRacing Championships would be held on the platform Zwift, the online cycling video game company have now launched their own esports series featuring pro teams.

Zwift is a platform built to gamify cycling. Pairing with an indoor training bike, the user takes on real roads and terrains designed to recreate iconic routes. The aim is to put the fun and romance of real-life cycling into indoor training to ensure that fitness and training is easier than ever.

The power of virtual reality and indeed esports are an obvious link to this platform, then. We’ve seen attempts to bring virtual reality into the sporting arena with mixed levels of success over the last year or two. From talk of VR season tickets to football games, where fans would be able to experience live games as though they were really there, to training aids, none of this technology has really made it to the mainstream.

Though some are getting closer than others, and it would seem as though the training aid side has more chance than the consumer content side, given the demands of getting the hardware to the public at large.

The likes of Zwift plays into this, however. Without the need for a VR headset this isn’t strictly virtual reality of course, and is more akin to esports, but it does a similar job: it uses immersive technology to enhance training and fitness for normal people.

The new esports league takes this to a new dimension, however. Adding a competitive and professional element – and with some of the tour’s biggest-name teams – Zwift are aiming to bring their product into the mainstream of fitness devices making it a must-have for club cyclists and fans of the sport as well as those aiming to have a bit more fun on the exercise bike.

Perhaps this is the cycle of technology changing sports consumption for good. The advent of TV changed the way sports work and made some more popular than others. The biggest sports got richer as broadcasters paid more money and some fell by the wayside because they didn’t lend themselves well to the TV spectacle – or the strict time schedules of live broadcasting. Other still found themselves mostly behind a paywall on subscription channels and found it hard to attract new audiences.

Those sports that lend themselves to esports might find that they do better in this brave new world than others. Whilst FIFA 19 gives football a platform, it’s a very different beast to what cycling or even Formula 1 can offer. The participants in the esports versions of these sports are more or less participating as they would in real life. The best amateur cyclist on Zwift may have the technique to become a tour pro and could be signed up and trained, whilst motorsports have already given the best esports champions the chance to prove themselves in real cars.

We’re looking forward to the British eRacing Championships as well as the new Zwift Esports series in 2019 because we think this could be the start of an interesting trend, both in participation esports and in the way sports adapt to this technology.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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