By Jonny Long
The first-ever eTour de France will be held this July, in the absence of the real-life race, with 10 gamers competing for the yellow jersey and viewers able to watch the virtual Grand Tour unfold.
The competition will be held on Pro Cycling Manager 2020, the latest edition in the video game series, with the makers Nacon, race organisers ASO and figures within the cycling eSports community coming together to make the virtual race a reality.
Two French eSports teams, Exalty and Warthox, came up with the idea after the real Tour de France was delayed due to the coronavirus, then bringing on board ASO and Nacon before reaching out to eSports teams and gamers.
Ten eSports teams from France will be represented by 10 gamers, many of whom run popular YouTube channels that feature videos of them playing the game. Competitors will contest the 21 stages of the 2020 route, over nine days from June 28-July 9.
French gamer Styros, who boasts just under 60,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, will be broadcasting the event live on Twitch for French fans, while Benji Naesen, a Belgian YouTuber, will be broadcasting with English commentary on his YouTube channel.
Naesen will also be competing in the event, as will Denmark's Lukas Pauly, whose past Tour de France gaming videos have clocked up millions of views.
"When Exalty contacted me, I thought it was a great opportunity to give the Pro Cycling Manager community a virtual substitute for the event we all love to immerse ourselves in," Naesen told Cycling Weekly.
"Being able to connect the game more to the actual sport of cycling has always been a low-key goal of mine when creating content surrounding Pro Cycling Manager," he said.
For the pro peloton, ASO and Zwift are also said to be putting together their own virtual offering to plug the void created by the absence of the world's biggest bike races.
Male and female riders will compete over six stages between July 4-19, with 15 teams and 10 television channels covering 130 countries initially signed up for the event.
All stages will be around an hour in length, starting in Nice and ending on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, with a tough mountain stage planned as the centrepiece of the event.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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