Five riders from our team will race in the first ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships held on Zwift on Wednesday 9 December. Representing their own nations Jessica Pratt (Australia), Tanja Erath, Hannah Ludwig and Christa Riffel (Germany), and Ella Harris (New Zealand) will line up for the elite women’s race to battle for the rainbow jersey that will be worn in virtual and real life Esport events in 2021.
“As soon as I heard the initial concept announced in Harrogate at the Yorkshire Road World Championships, I knew I wanted to be on the start line for it,” said Ella.
“Having a World Championships on Zwift is a long time coming. Zwift have done a lot of work to try to increase the integration between indoor riding versus outside cycling with concepts such as the Zwift Academy and races like the Virtual Tour de France. Now it has the backing of the UCI. For me it’s a nice way to give back to Zwift by racing and supporting the World Championships, which will be a very momentous occasion for all involved at Zwift.”
Tanja echoed the enthusiasm of Harris to race for the rainbow jersey on the Zwift platform.
“I also heard about the plan announced at Yorkshire. I was immediately intrigued and knew I would want to race. Back then, I wasn’t really good in Zwift racing, but I guess I’ve done my homework since then,” smiled Erath who returns to racing after damaging both her anterior cruciate and medial knee ligaments in a crash in September.
Tanja continued, “The Esport World Championships has been great motivation for my rehabilitation. I’ve had eight weeks of recovery and now some quite intense sessions to get my level back in a short amount of time. I hope we will nail the timing, but it is also a bit of luck due to what my knee and body tolerate. I raced part of the course during Zwift’s Tour for All and I really loved the dynamic. As a team, Germany have a strong, young, but Zwift-experienced group, so we will aim for that top spot with one of our riders.”
Ella, who today finished two weeks in New Zealand government managed quarantine, describes the course. “It’s a nice course that they’ve chosen for the World Championships, a real Zwift staple in Watopia. The Figure 8 Reverse should make for a fast race with not huge total elevation gain, but a few rollers around the loop and three ascents of the Downtown KOM in both directions. Although short and not too steep, climbs on Zwift always seem to be decisive and play a role in the outcome of a race. It finishes up this KOM also, which will make for a really exciting finale and an extra tough last 1km. It’s a course that many different types of riders can win, depending on how it is raced.”
Though Ella has been training solely on Zwift for the past two weeks, the New Zealander will now spend the next days in the lead up to worlds on a cycling trip with her brother.
“My preparation is unorthodox and on paper not the best but maybe the happiness watts approach will work! The course isn’t really an important factor as the steady yet high intensity style of racing on Zwift suits my physiology. To be honest though, I’m far more concerned about the timings of the event. I’ll have to race at 2.40am so I drew the time-zone short straw,” said Ella.
While Ella will be the only rider representing New Zealand, Tanja is part of six-rider German team, and so too Jess is part of a six-rider Australian squad. Hear from Hannah, Christa and Jess below.
“During 2020 I really started to enjoy the Zwift racing we did as a team at CANYON//SRAM. For me this will be the end of my season and it’s a cool way to finish off such a weird year. I love the course––50km long, varied terrain, with just the right amount of hills. It’s a perfect course for a Zwift race.”
“I’ve continued to train after my last road race three weeks ago. I’ve been riding a lot on Zwift, have done several races, and the national team have had some training sessions on Zwift too. Our team is strong, especially with Tanja in it, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“My final race of the season was at the Madrid Challenge. I took only a short off season and then started training again for the race on Zwift. The climbs are tough but aren’t longer than 4-5 minutes and it should suit my peak powers which are those 1-5 minute type efforts. I’m expecting a hard race, especially as the tactic of climbers will be to try and drop the sprinters on the ascents. We have a strong German team and I’m hoping to help one of them contend for the win. It should be an exciting race for fans to watch.”
“Immediately after I heard there would be an Esports World Championships on Zwift I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Our road and Zwift race results were taken into consideration, and I was excited to hear I had made the team in a group of very talented Aussies.”
“Riders from the Oceania region will be racing in the evening but we’ll put in strategies to ensure peak performance. I’ve recently finished two weeks of hotel quarantine and that’s meant that riding on Zwift has been a staple of late. I’m excited to finish the season on a high and I’ll be committed to my role within the Australian team.”
All riders competing in the race have been provided with a Tacx Neo 2T home trainer. More information on the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships can be found here, and the start list is published here.