British national champion jersey for gamers up for grabs as British Cycling joins forces with Zwift

British eRacing Championship to be held in London in March

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It was revealed this week that the inaugural British Cycling eRacing Championships, powered by online training game Zwift, will be hosted in London. The exact date is still to be confirmed, but the final will be in late March, with the top 10 men and women facing off in a multi-race format for a national jersey and £1000 prize pot.

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To qualify for those finals, they’ll be a mass online race – the British Cycling eRacing Championships Qualifier – on the morning of Sunday 24 February. Anyone can compete in the qualifying event, however, to qualify for the finals and the national title, you must be a member of British Cycling. To register your interest, visit British Cycling here.

In our current issue (350) we wrote about the event in our Spin column…

Some may have wondered if 1 April had come early when British Cycling revealed that, in collaboration with online training game Zwift, it would be launching a new national cycling championship for ‘gamers’. For many others, however, this was a logical extension of the indoor training revolution, and the gamification that goes with it.

The first-ever British Cycling eRacing Championships, scheduled for February this year, is the headline act of a new partnership with Zwift. A series of qualifying rounds at entrants’ homes leads to a Zwift-based final at a venue TBC in London in March between the top ranked riders, who’ll compete for a coveted national champion’s jersey (like all such jerseys, it can only be used in the context of racing in which it was won, so presumably the most public airing of the eRacing jersey will be a spin class).

It’s open to anybody, but to compete in the final you need to be a British Cycling member. Like Zwift’s Academy, the company’s in-house competition that awards men and women contracts with professional cycling teams based on their proficency for the game, British Cycling also hopes to use the competition for talent identification. The move follows on from the UCI, the sport’s world governing body, stating its interest in staging a similar world championships, holding a forum in Lausanne last summer between the International Olympic Committee and the eSports community that explored the possibilty of eSports inclusion in the Olympics. In short, then: ‘eCycling’ means business.

For the naysayers, this is as close to cycling as the Pro Evolution Soccer video game is to playing football.

“Astounded by the numbers using Zwift. It seems to me to have all the downsides of cycling (hard work!) and none of the upsides: fresh air, interesting discoveries and someone to serve you coffee,” wrote one commenter below the line of the Guardian’s online story on the eRacing championship’s launch.

Several others had more favourable responses:

“It also avoids the winter-related downsides of a) cold, b) wet, c) wind and d) dark. It’s a supplement to going out on the bike, not a replacement,” said one, with another adding that “three young kids has meant that my riding time outside has been restricted to commutes so Zwift is all I have just now!”

We’ve spoken to many people who, thanks to the advancements in turbo training tech, almost only cycle outside once the clocks have gone forward and the weather’s warmed up. The form winter ‘Zwifting’ gives them means they’re sprinting out of the blocks when they eventually take to the road in the spring. With one million Zwift accounts worldwide, there’ll be no shortage of riders looking to become Britain’s newest national champ and no question of the title’s legitimacy among cycling’s disciplines.

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Illustration: Mick Marston