UCI president David Lappartient travelled to Abu Dhabi to attend the MyWhoosh presentation, grateful the indoor cycling app is to become a sponsor of the outdoor road World Championships and curious about a future role MyWhoosh’s data could play in the fight against mechanical doping.
MyWhoosh has replaced Zwift as the platform and organiser for the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships for the next three years, with the finals held in Abu Dhabi in October, with some kind of new racing format.
On Thursday, MyWhoosh was also named as the ‘exclusive virtual cycling training platform’ for the UCI Road World Championships from 2024 to 2026. Abu Dhabi will host the Road World Championships in 2028 and the Track World Championships in 2029, helping the UCI to secure major events and funding for years ahead.
Because Esport cycling is a physical virtual sport, mechanical doping has been used and detected, with athletes tampering with their equipment and falsifying their data. That sparked greater controls by the UCI but doubts about the validity of some performances.
Lappartient said MyWhoosh will use the data they capture from riders and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect if someone is cheating in Esport races.
He also hinted that MyWhoosh’s technology could one day be used to investigate suspicious performances in other forms of racing, including professional road racing. Lappartient first suggested the idea of using performance data in 2018 when unveiling the use of a mobile X-ray machine to search for mechanical doping.
The UCI president gave little away but appeared to suggest that athletes’ data could be measured and analysed to try to detect mechanical doping or extraordinary performances, in a similar way that blood values are monitored as part of the UCI Biological Passport programme. Any changes in power data could raise a red flag and spark further investigation.
“We’ll discuss if this AI technology can be used in real races to detect or at least to target some controls on the bikes,” Lappartient revealed to Cyclingnews.
“I’m sure AI and these new technologies will also help detect or target riders. It may be a problem with the number of watts, or there could be a comparison with all the data we have. I think there’s a bridge there, and we spoke about how we can use their technology. There’s more to come on this.”
Lappartient is Chair of the IOC’s Esports and Gaming Liaison Group (ELG) and has worked to position Esport cycling as a future Esport Olympic event.
The deal with MyWhoosh is part of that vision.
“For us to sign-up a three-year contract and to organise here in Abu Dhabi the future UCI Esports World Championships is great. The qualifications will be online but the finals will be on site.” Lappartient told Cyclingnews.
Lappartient wants to create a crossover between indoor riding and racing with the world of outdoor cycling.
“It will bring their audience to the Road World Championships. We need events not just for fans of road cycling but other cyclists too,” he said.
“We’re working on a special presentation with them and also having the Road World Championships circuit on MyWhoosh before the event so athletes can train on it. It’s also a kind of legacy, after the World Championships, the circuit will remain. That’s a global vision.”
IOC President Thomas Bach called on the Esports Commission to study the creation of the Olympic Esports Games. They could be held as soon as 2025 as the IOC looks to compete against already established Esport and gaming events.
“I think Esports cycling will be part of the Esport Games announced by the IOC President in India. Thomas Bach made it clear he wants to launch the IOC Esport Olympic Games,” Lappartient said.
“We hope to be part of them. It’s up to the IOC to decide on the disciplines, but we’re the leading international federation for physical, virtual sports, so I think we’ll be part of it.”