MyWhoosh selected for 2024-2026 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships: Some thoughts

The UCI & MyWhoosh announced yesterday that the MyWhoosh virtual cycling platform has been selected for the 2024/2025/2026 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships. So far Zwift has been the platform used for the World Cycling Championship online race, which usually takes place in the winter months (usually between December and February, this year for 2023 it took place in February). Note that this Esports event is very different from the Indoor Cycling event as this event involves ‘artistic cycling’ – and has been going on since 1956. In case you’ve never seen it, you need to stop what you’re doing and see it right away. Likewise, this is all different from the equally amazing UCI Cycle-Ball World Championships.

The Esports variant has been running since 2020 (albeit skipping 2021) on Zwift, born mostly from a mixture of pandemic-era tailwinds and Zwift’s desire at the time to try and bring cycling Esports to the Olympics 2024 Games.

Now, many over the past 24 hours have said that this feels like a “loss” for Zwift, and in a way that’s probably true. But we must remember that this is just a paid offer for this event. In the past, other platforms have evaluated it as well – and we’ve seen sponsorships there as well. For example, both Garmin/Tacx and Wahoo have supported the event as well, on the hardware front (trainers). On the platform side, other platforms have looked at it as well, but my discussions over the years with them have roughly reflected the same commentary that at the time it was kind of pointless to bid against Zwift’s heavily backed investment money and connections at UCI level.

But MyWhoosh has no such financial constraints. Based in the United Arab Emirates, MyWhoosh goes hand in hand with the country’s major investment in cycling over the next 6 years. In fact, their press release highlights a lot of it, providing a quote from UCI President David Lappartient saying:

“We are delighted to welcome MyWhoosh as the new platform and organizer of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships for the next three years and are confident that they will continue to grow this exciting and popular event. Today’s announcement further confirms Abu Dhabi’s commitment to our sport after hosting a superb edition of the UCI Road World Championships in 2022. The city will host this event again in 2024, as well as the UCI Road World Championships and the World Championships UCI Gran Fondo Championship in 2028 and the UCI Athletics World Championship in 2029. The next three editions of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championship add to Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a host of top-class cycling events.”

The point here is that everything about these options is driven by money (and connections), not functionality or user bases. Checking with Zwift, they confirmed that they have indeed submitted a bid for the 2024-2026 Esports World Championship. It’s unclear if other platforms are also bidding.

Sure, one can have a technical debate about which platform is preferred, or even a debate about which platform is more attractive to cyclists. But aside from meeting some minimum paper theory UCI criteria of what the Esports platform in question should have (which historically was basically written with Zwift in mind), that’s really the only money-changing issue. Like most online cycling platforms (except TrainerRoad), there are outside investors. In Zwift’s case, it’s a slate of investors. And in the case of MyWhoosh, it’s a bit more blurry, but not difficult to follow the path.

Initially, the platform is partnering with Team UAE Emirates (the professional cycling team). While MyWhoosh is reluctant to discuss its investors, the simplified version is that the main/primary investor is the UAE (United Arab Emirates) government, just like the UAE team and countless other sports/tourism endeavors. Their “CEO and CEO” (official title in the press release) is Akhtar Saeed Hashmi, also CEO of several UAE entities including Royal Technology Services (RTS) and Mauqah Technology. RTS is a subsidiary of The Royal Group, which is ultimately headed by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of the founder of the UAE. This holding group is responsible for approximately $26 billion in assets as part of the UAE’s International Holdings Group (IHC).

These lines are key to understanding the goals MyWhoosh has, one of which is their stated goal of increasing fitness and sports activity in the UAE.

As for what’s in store for the event itself (likely to take place next February)? Well, that’s still a bit unclear – but honestly that’s been the case every year with Zwift too, with details only released closer to the event. That said, MyWhoosh noted in the press release:

“We are committed to making Abu Dhabi a truly world-class cycling hub and look forward to offering athletes, fans and enthusiasts an immersive experience that combines the excitement of esports with the spirit of cycling. This partnership marks a transformative era for MyWhoosh and the realm of cycling esports, bringing all the benefits and excitement of competitive cycling home to the world. We are also excited to welcome the cycling community to Abu Dhabi for the 2028 UCI Road World Championships and the 2029 UCI Athletics World Championships.”

He continued by saying:

“With hosting rights secured, MyWhoosh will now finalize the details of the three-year partnership, aiming to turn the event into an immersive, exciting global event.”

Since MyWhoosh as a platform has continued to grow over the past couple of years, including adding new routes as well as hosting big prize events, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more worlds focus on these specific World Championship events. After all, just a day before Wednesday they announced a new Belgian-flavored virtual world. It will also be interesting to see if they end up with some form of in-person event for the World Championships, as has been tried in a few different indoor cycling championships over the years, and I think it generally adds something more to the event, rather than just people doing it. they do from their living rooms.

But these are all details that will be settled in the coming months.

With that, thanks for reading!

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