Online cycling platform Zwift has secured a $120 million funding boost, which it aims to put into expanding its esports catalogue as well as its presence in running.
Founder Eric Min has said he wants Zwift racing to become the "first true esport of its kind” and that he believes the platform will "play a leading role in the future of professional cycling.”
The news comes shortly after British Cycling unveiled its plans to use the programme to host its first 'eRacing Championships' in 2019.
Keen to 'own' the esports arena when it comes to cycling, Zwift has over one million users on its books, with a large percentage of the cycling population utilising the network for training and racing. Users reportedly include one third of the Tour de France peloton.
The Series B funding round was led by Highland Europe, whose portfolio includes the likes of eGym and Huel as well as giants WeTransfer. Other parties include True, the retail, consumer and leisure investment firm behind the Ribble; Causeway Media, an investor in both traditional sports and esports; as well as returning London-based investor Novator participating.
“Zwift is now more than ready to propel the business forward by providing innovative offerings that are greater in breadth and depth,” said co-founder and CEO of the company, Eric Min.
“In 2018, more than one third of the Tour de France peloton were Zwifters. With that support already in place, we are in the unique position of being able to combine affordable physical endeavour with video gaming technology, ultimately setting the stage for us to become the first true esport of its kind.”
Much has been made of the comparisons between the esport variety of cycling, and the real life version.
Min said: “We’re not here to compete with pro cycling as we know it, we’re here to deliver new energy, entertainment, audiences and commercial partners to pro cycling.
"We want to create an new sport within a sport. Don’t expect to see first across the line stage racing, Zwift is going to turn into a battleground for pro cycling teams and deliver a truly gamified experience which will be shared with our subscriber base globally. I personally believe Zwift will play a leading role in the future of professional cycling.”
Mark Cavendish, the 30-time Tour de France Stage winner, is a vocal advocate, saying: “Zwift has transformed the way the professional peloton trains.”
“Before Zwift, there is no way I would have chosen to ride an indoor trainer. Now though, I genuinely enjoy it - it appeals to the gamer in me. Riders like myself are genuinely fitter now, thanks to Zwift.”
Tony Zappala, Partner of Highland Europe, said: “Zwift is a fantastically innovative company and they are certainly leading the way in the indoor training space.”
“It’s a highly scalable business and we’ve been impressed with how they have already managed to expand globally."
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