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How to Watch the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships

If you’re stoked to watch some virtual bike racing, you can slake your thirst this Saturday. Here’s how.

A screenshot from the Zwift cycling appThis year's UCI Cycling Esports Worlds will run on a new map in Scotland; (photo/Zwift)
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On Saturday, Feb. 18, 200 racers from 23 nations will roll up to the starting line — mounted on Zwift trainers at home.

It’s the start of the third Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Cycling Esports World Championships. The virtual venue: the app’s brand-new map in Scotland.

The race gets underway at 6 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. ET). A new racing format focuses on producing “exciting viewing and fierce racing,” per Zwift and the UCI. The multidiscipline format consists of three races: The Punch, The Climb, and The Podium, all contested within a 75-minute window.

To watch, you can tune in live on the YouTube channel of either Zwift or Global Cycling Network (GCN).

What’s at stake? The men’s and women’s winner of each event will get the coveted UCI Cycling Esports World Champions rainbow-striped jersey. They then get the right to wear it during sanctioned esports races until next year’s Worlds. Of course, their avatar will wear the rainbow stripes during their reign too.

Virtual Equipment and PowerUps

A Zwift cycling app screenshot

All 200 riders will compete on the latest Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainers. They “intelligently” respond to the changes in virtual terrain and race situations, simulating the draft of other riders and gradients of climbs and descents. Riders can choose from all available road bike and wheel options Zwift offers. But they won’t be able to get an advantage out of equipment variations because the platform will “neutralize” their choices to the same performance characteristics. Every rider’s avatar will race in their nation’s virtual team kit.

The advantages you can look for riders to leverage include PowerUps. Racers can deploy these in-game elements at will, in an added layer of strategy. Every rider at the World Championships will get the Breakaway Burrito in the first and third races and the Anvil in the second race. The Burrito disables drafting for all riders in a small radius around the user for 10 seconds. The Anvil makes a Zwifter heavier for 30 seconds.

That can be a huge advantage on descents, so watch for it in the second race, where altitude change rules the terrain.

The 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championship Course

First up is The Punch, to be raced on the Rolling Highlands course. It’s 14.1 km (8.7 miles), with 344 feet of rolling climbs. The “rollercoaster-like” roads will narrow the field down from 200 starters to only the first 60 (first 30 men, first 30 women) to cross the line.

The Climb follows a short break. It’s a hilly scratch race held on Scotland’s City and the Sgurr course. This 8.6km (5.3-mile) course with 528 feet of “punishing” climbing per lap takes on the map’s toughest hill. Only 10 men and 10 women advance.

The Podium runs the Glasgow Crit Circuit, a tight 3km (1.8-mile) loop. This final race will follow an elimination format for the first time in the Cycling Esports World Championship. The last rider across the line is dropped from the event on each lap. When only three riders are left, they battle it out for the hardware.

For start lists, who to watch, and more, head over to Zwift’s news website. And mark your calendar for this Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. ET.

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