'It builds bridges and brings many opportunities': UCI announces deep partnership with the UAE for years to come

UCI welcomes MyWhoosh as main virtual cycling partner while the UAE gears up to host various world championship events

In-play shot of MyWhoosh, the virtual racing platform
(Image credit: UCI)

Zwift may have been the category leader in virtual cycling for some time, but the UCI and MyWhoosh are ushering in a new era for virtual and real-life racing alike.

The international governing body of cycling has granted the United Arab Emirates-based technology company the rights to organize the Esports World Championships for three years beginning in 2024, taking the event away from Zwift.

Founded in 2019, MyWhoosh is backed by substantial UAE government support and funding. In addition to the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, the UAE will also host the 2024 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships, the 2028 UCI Road World Championships, the 2028 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, and the 2029 UCI Track World Championships – confirming its ambitions to become a global hub for top-class cycling events.

"They have a strong management structure and the expertise to organize many top-class international events in different disciplines and sports," says UCI President David Lappartient. "For us, the UAE is a very strong partner."

For the upcoming three road World Championships, MyWhoosh will receive exclusive rights to create virtual versions of the routes, allowing riders everywhere to challenge themselves on the same courses the professional cyclists will compete on for the rainbow bands, no matter where they are in the world.

To vie for the virtual rainbow bands, the UCI and MyWhoosh revealed that 20 percent of the 2024 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships semi-finalists will qualify through the MyWhoosh platform’s public qualification process.

"I believe [virtual cycling] is clearly a bridge with all the other disciplines. A way to launch cycling everywhere, and more specifically in big cities where it’s challenging to ride, while also motivating more women to ride," says Lappartient.

About the partnership with a non-traditional region such as the Middle East, Lappartient says the UCI plans to lay roots in this newer region.

"Our roots are in Europe, but we are in South America and Africa, and now here in the UAE. They are building a cycling environment. It isn’t only about having a WorldTour Team. It’s about having infrastructure and building venues, like the new velodrome that’s coming next year in 2025, and people are riding their bikes here. That’s a reality, so it’s good for us to be here," he says.

Just as Lappartient made this comment, a group of adolescent riders from the Abu Dhabi Cycling Club sped by the outdoor press briefing , staring wide-eyed at their idol, Tadej Pogacar, who was in attendance. 

The investments in cycling infrastructure, including a velodrome, earned Abu Dhabi the UCI’s coveted Bike City designation, becoming the first in the Middle East or Asia. 

The 2024 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships

Images from the 2023 UCI Esports World Championships

(Image credit: Zwift)

The fourth edition of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships final will take place in Abu Dhabi.

For the first time in cycling esports history, all qualifying participants will have the opportunity to compete in person, with the event organizer coordinating travel arrangements for the top 20 female and male athletes from the 150 men and women competing in the semi-final round to join the competition in Abu Dhabi.

The UCI will assign approximately 80% of the starting spots to the National Federations, who will choose their national representatives. The remaining 20% of the semi-finalists will earn their spots through the public qualification process on the MyWhoosh platform.

Plus two wildcards per gender, alludes Lappartient: "It would be interesting to see a rider like Tadej Pogacar compete against indoor specialists in the 2024 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships here in Abu Dhabi."

A breakdown of the 2024 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships is to follow, including a complete description of the courses for the three-race live final format.

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