A lot has happened to the UCI Esports World Championships since it was last held in February 2023. In August, it was revealed that UAE-based indoor training platform MyWhoosh had emerged victorious from a tender process to deliver the event for the next three editions. The first three (2020, 2022 and 2023) were delivered by Zwift, but MyWhoosh, whose platform is free to use, will host the competition from 2024 to 2026.
The championships have also been moved from February to October, despite the previous move from December to February meaning 2021 was essentially a skipped year.
Now, the format of the race is set to change too. Cyclingnews attended the brand’s recent official launch and press conference in Abu Dhabi, where details of the racing platform and championship format were announced, which will include a new points-based system.
MyWhoosh unveiled a brand new virtual world in which the championships will take place, as well as qualification details, and a breakdown of the new format and structure, which we go into more detail on below.
“MyWhoosh is proud to spearhead the evolution of cycling esports, said MyWhoosh’s CEO and Managing Director, Akhtar Saeed Hashmi.
“Our commitment to innovation and inclusivity is at the forefront as we introduce a groundbreaking points-based format, catering to athletes of all physiological characteristics. With the privilege of hosting the live final in Abu Dhabi, we are dedicated to changing the cycling esports landscape.”
Hashmi also revealed a change to the size of the field, as well as hinting at the qualification processes, stating: “In a significant move, we are expanding the semi-finals to accommodate over 150 riders, reflecting our broader strategy to foster global growth and inclusivity in cycling esports. The qualification pathways, blending National Federation selections and MyWhoosh’s public qualification process, ensure transparency and fairness, opening doors for athletes worldwide.”
A new host and platform for the Esports Worlds means a shakeup to the qualification pathway and racing format.
Qualification for the Esports World Championships will be split between spots allocated to national federations, who will then select riders to race using their own means. The remaining 20% of participants will come from a public qualification process. MyWhoosh says this two-way pathway will provide greater accessibility to the semi-finals, as well as ensuring a transparent and fair selection process for athletes. This should mean that, a bit like the gravel world championships, strong (we suspect very strong) amateurs will have a chance of racing the pros in the finals.
Speaking at the press conference in Abu Dhabi, Michael Rogers, head of road and innovation at the UCI, said that the UCI had looked at the results from the previous two Esports Worlds editions and used the (outdoor) road world points system for the top 60 riders. This means nations with strong results over the previous two years would qualify more riders for the 2024 championships.
The UCI also stated that they would like to engage with even more nations from around the globe and didn’t rule out the possibility of a few wildcard entries for the championships, though Tadej Pogacar didn’t confirm whether he would take part when we spoke to him at the event.
A new racing format
After qualification, 150 male and female riders will participate in the semi-finals, which will take place in September in a two-race format. Racers will compete virtually around the world in the semi-finals ahead of the live final in Abu Dhabi.
The first of the two semi-final races will be over a nine kilometre circuit. A points system will see the top 80 riders from each race advance to the second race. The second race will be over four laps of a shorter four kilometre circuit. This will narrow the field down to 20 men and 20 women.
After the semi-finals, 20 male and female riders, plus two wildcards per race, will battle it out at the live grand finale in Abu Dhabi.
The finals will be broken down into three races, which MyWhoosh says will need strategy and contain something to suit a range of riders. The finals will be based on a points race format. Points earned in each of the three races will determine the final result, though we don’t know the exact points breakdowns yet. The rider amassing the highest total point score across the races will be crowned the 2024 UCI ESports World Champion.
Race 1 – The Sprint
Riders will have 15 minutes on a 1.7km course to set their fastest time over a 300-metre individual, timed sprint. A live timing leaderboard will allow riders to see the fastest times and choose whether to sprint again if needed.
Interestingly, riders can attempt the sprint as many times as they want.
Race 2 – The Strategy
The second race in the finals will take place on a nine-kilometre circuit with roughly a four-minute climb and focuses on earning points via three intermediate sprints per circuit. MyWhoosh says the strategy race is not about being the best climber, and that any athlete can win by accumulating the most points.
During the press conference, Matt Smithson, race control and race events manager at MyWhoosh, explained the sprints would be at the bottom of the climb, the top of the climb and that the final finishing straight would carry double points.
Race 3 – All out
The final race will take place over four laps of a four-kilometre circuit. Points will be on offer at the top of a short, sharp climb each lap. Double points will be on offer at the finish line on the final lap. MyWhoosh believes the overall standings should be very tight coming into this final race and it should provide excitement right to the end.
The male and female riders with the highest points total at the end of the three races will be crowned world champion.