Bri­tish Cy­cling vir­tual re­al­ity event gets green light to start in 2019

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Sean In­gle

Bri­tish Cy­cling is to take its search for the next Geraint Thomas or Vic­to­ria Pendle­ton into peo­ple’s homes with the launch of a new vir­tual re­al­ity cham­pi­onship. The com­pe­ti­tion, which is ex­pected to start in Fe­bru­ary, will see thou­sands of riders com­pet­ing in a sim­u­lated 3D en­vi­ron­ment by us­ing their bike, a turbo trainer and the pop­u­lar on­line app Zwift, which is used by around 500,000 peo­ple in 195 coun­tries.

Bri­tish Cy­cling’s com­mer­cial di­rec­tor, Jonathan Rigby, said the cham­pi­onship would en­cour­age more peo­ple to get ac­tive and serve as a tal­ent ID pro­gramme for po­ten­tial fu­ture cham­pi­ons. “The es­ports mar­ket is par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing for cy­cling as it en­ables so many more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate and be ac­tive,” he added. “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.”

The Bri­tish Cy­cling eRac­ing Cham­pi­onships – which will be open to all UK riders – will com­prise a se­ries of qual­i­fy­ing rounds cul­mi­nat­ing in a live fi­nal event be­tween the top-ranked riders from each age and gen­der cat­e­gory. These fi­nals will see riders com­pete for the na­tional jer­sey, in a multi-event for­mat com­pris­ing a se­ries of short races, in­clud­ing a time trial and elim­i­na­tion race.

The move is the lat­est at­tempt by the au­thor­i­ties to tap into the fast grow­ing mar­ket. In Septem­ber cy­cling’s gov­ern­ing body, the UCI, an­nounced plans for an es­ports world cham­pi­onships while this year’s CVR in­door World Cup cy­cling event had a prize pot of over $50,000.

A grow­ing num­ber of cy­clists have also pro­gressed to the pro ranks af­ter win­ning com­pe­ti­tions on Zwift, which works by tak­ing a rider’s turbo trainer data to power an on­line avatar.

In 2016 the for­mer marathon­run­ner Leah Thorvil­son beat 1,200 other cy­clists on the Zwift Academy pro­gramme to se­cure a con­tract with the Cany­onSRAM team, while last year the for­mer triath­lete Tanja Erath won a deal for the 2018 sea­son. Mean­while Ol­lie Jones also won a place on the Di­men­sion Data devel­op­ment team.

Zwift also cre­ated a vir­tual copy of the 2018 Inns­bruck world road race course, al­low­ing Bri­tain’s Dani Rowe to study and train for the race at home be­fore trav­el­ling to Aus­tria.

As part of Bri­tish Cy­cling’s twoyear part­ner­ship deal with Zwift struc­tured train­ing plans will also be of­fered to the na­tional body’s 146,000-strong mem­ber­ship, as well as vir­tual rides with the Great Bri­tain cy­cling team.

Pho­to­graph: Bri­tish Cy­cling

How an ecy­cling race will look when Bri­tish Cy­cling launches its cham­pi­onships in 2019.

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