UCI Cycling eSports World Championships Preview
Five riders are set to represent Ireland at the UCI Cycling eSports World Championships on Saturday, 18th February.
You can watch the racing live on Zwift's YouTube channel and Eurosport from 6pm or the UCI website from 6.15pm. The men's race kicks off at 6.15pm with the women's race set to get underway at 7.45pm.
Chris Dawson will represent Ireland for the third time at the Cycling eSports World Championships, he will be joined by Richard Barry who also competed in the 2022 edition.
Linda Kelly, who competes as a road cyclist and tandem pilot with the Irish Paracycling team, will represent Ireland in the women’s events alongside Heather Foley, a former Team Ireland rider who has focused on Zwift and triathlon racing in recent seasons.
Imogen Cotter will also take to the virtual start line in the women's event after being selected to compete at the championships as a wildcard by Zwift. The international road rider is no stranger to eRacing having previously competed for the Movistar E-Team.
This year's Championship will consist of three short and explosive events: The Punch, The Climb and The Podium, which will be contested on three separate routes on an all-new Scotland map built specifically for the Championships.
The new elimination format will see only the top 30 in the men's and women's Punch race progress to the next race, the Climb with the top 10 from that race competing for the win in the Podium race.
Dawson believes the new race format should suit him and will make for some great racing. Dawson said:
"I’m super excited about it. This will be my third year racing the UCI eSports Worlds. It’s a totally different format this year, one that I’ve tried out a couple of times on the Zwift GP series and I personally think it will make for super exciting racing.
"We have a strong squad here, everyone is in good form and we’ve all been studying the course and sharing tips and tricks. I think we stand as good a chance as any of the other countries in doing well and my personal ambitions are just to do as well as I can, execute the race plan, get through to race two and leave it all on the line in race two to make it into that top 10 and it’s just a lottery then for that final race to duke it out for that rainbow jersey."
Richard Barry will join riders from British Cycling in Glasgow as they play host to the first live 'in real life' physical final. Members of the public will get an opportunity to watch the riders competing in person bridging the gap between the real-world physical efforts of the riders and the virtual race.
Commenting on his selection for Ireland and competing at the live in person event in Glasgow, Barry said:
"I'm really excited to represent Ireland again in the eSports World Championships especially as I will be racing at the live in person event in Glasgow. This brings an extra level of excitement and the added element of seeing other riders behind their avatars. The buzz of the crowd will also bring some extra energy and I hope I can use this to progress as far as possible in the elimination race format."
Linda Kelly, who also competes on the road has focused her attention on training for the eSports World Championships, Kelly said:
“In preparation for the eSports World Championships, I have recently got involved in as many Zwift races including back-to-back racing during my indoor sessions. The Zwift races are great for preparing you for these types of events where you can get used to those sudden attacks, practice when and where to use the power-ups and staying focused on what’s happening around you. Like a road event it is hugely beneficial to familiarise yourself with the course beforehand. Luckily, we have had the chance to train on the course and know how to approach them.”
“I’m glad that I can finally get to the start of the eSports Worlds (Championships) as obviously last year I was also selected but I had a really bad accident at the end of January which was about two or three weeks before the Worlds but this year I’m finally able to get to the start line and in one piece which is very nice. I think this weekend's format with the three different races will make it a bit more interesting because it gives different opportunities; the second race is quite hilly which is good for climbers, the first race you’ve got a punchy finish and the last race will just be torture for whoever gets to the third round. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do, my numbers are looking pretty good," she said.
For Heather Foley, training for the eSports World Championships has been a totally a different challenge compared to any other races she has done on the road and track. Foley said:
"Having previously raced on the track and road for Ireland, this has been a completely different challenge to rise to. I'm grateful to have had the guidance from Tommy Evans (Team Manager) in the build up to the event and I'm both excited and nervous but ready to give my all in Saturday's eSports World Championships."