173 racers contested Saturday’s UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, held in Zwift’s new Scotland map. At the end of two exciting events, each containing three fast and hotly contested events, Denmark’s Bjørn Andreassen and the Netherland’s Loes Adegeest were crowned world champions. Read below to see how the races played out:
Denmark’s Bjørn Andreassen took a commanding win in the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships after riding strategically through the first two rounds of racing and then leaping to an early lead in The Podium, the final event. Germany’s Jason Osborne, the 2020 UCI Cycling Esports World Champion, was second, with his teammate Marc Mäding finishing third.
86 riders started the men’s race, which was held in Zwift’s new Scotland world, launched earlier this month for the world championship races.
In order to win, Andreassen made it through the first two races. The first was The Punch, in which the top thirty finishers advanced. The second stage was The Climb, where only the top 10 riders to finish advanced to the final stage, The Podium.
Andreassen struck out early in the final race, almost immediately opening up a lead that eventually stretched to 15 seconds. The nine other riders were left to contest the remaining spots, with one rider getting eliminated at each of the courses’ two sprint points.
The devil was at the back, and USA’s Zach Nehr was the first racer eliminated, followed by Denmark’s Oskar Hvid, South Africa’s James Barnes, and Norway’s Haavard Gjeldnes. Pre-race favorite, Freddy Ovett of Australia, tried to start a chase on the fifth lap, but ended up getting caught out himself, followed by Kjell Power of Belgium. Denmark’s Anders Foldager was the last eliminated, leaving Andereassen as the sole Dane in the race, facing Germans Osborne and Mäding. But with a lead that hardly ever dipped below 10 second in the closing laps, Andreassen was able to ride comfortably to the win, with his real-world teammates promptly handing him a bottle of champagne.
After the race, Andreassen credited mountain bike racing with helping him devise the winning tactic, noting that he treated the start just as he would a mountain bike race.
Earlier, the first race, The Punch, was held on Zwift’s Rolling Highland’s course.
USA’s Timothy Rugg was the first to attack, shooting off the front in the opening kilometers, before quickly being brought back. He was followed by Australia’s Sam Hill. The move was soon neutralized by a strong Belgian team led by pre-race favorite Victor Campenaerts of Belgium.
The peloton was all together with seven kilometers to go when riders started to deploy their Breakaway Burrito PowerUps, attempting to breakaway.
The race’s strongest move came at about three kilometers to go, and included Daniel Turek of the Czech Republic, Stian Lersveen of Norway, France’s Geoffry Millour, Johan Noren of Sweden, and Edward Laverack of Great Britain. This group got a lead of six seconds as they went through two kilometers to go, leading into the last climb.
A big acceleration from the group neutralized the gap, setting up a full gas sprint with the first 30 finishers set to advance to the second race.
Rinus Verhelle, of Belgium, opened the sprint, and it was Germany’s Marc Mäding taking the win ahead of Haavard Gjeldnes, of Norway, and Osborne.
The second race saw riders tackle the punishing slopes of the Sgurr climb three times. Thirty riders took the start and only ten advanced to the final round. The opening kilometers saw the group largely staying together, but the racing soon heated up with an attack from Verhelle, who went off the front on the second of three climbs.
He earned a three second gap on the dirt descent while the bunch behind deployed a flurry of anvil powerups. The fierce pace caused a few riders to fall off the pack while the riders at the front spiked their power to seven watts per kilogram to push the pace.
Christopher Dawson, of Ireland, brought the group back together with two kilometers to go and Osborne took the win ahead of USA’s Zach Nehr and Belgium’s Kjell Power, setting up the final showdown in The Podium.
Bjørn Andreassen, Denmark
The Netherland’s Loes Adegeest won her second-consecutive UCI Cycling Esports World Championship by riding the three-race series conservatively, staying largely anonymous in the bunch of 87 of the world’s best Zwift racers, until the closing moments of the first two races, when she made it clear that she’d come prepared to win, finishing sixth in race one and first in race two. In the finale, the Dutch rider deployed a well-timed burrito power up to help her definitively out sprint Great Britain’s Zoe Langham and the USA’s Jacquie Godbe to recapture her UCI World Champion’s rainbow stripes.
While Loes had demonstrated impressive patience in the first two races, she firmly took control in the last race, contested over six laps of Zwift’s Glasgow Crit Circuit. The Dutch rider led the bunch through four of the six eliminations, choosing to use her speed to gain a lead, instead of taking a chance on a sprint. It was a dominating tactic, but one that required her to expend more energy than other racers who remained in the draft longer, counting on a sprint to avoid elimination.
With the display of power, speed, and tactical acumen, Loes made it apparent that she was prepared to win, despite lining up for the final race in a field that, on paper, looked like it should have been dominated by the United States, which started with four riders, twice as many as the next-largest team, Great Britain.
Once on the road, it quickly became apparent that the Americans were outmatched, losing pre-race favorite Kristen Kulchinsky and Zwift Academy finalist Liz Van Houweling in the first two eliminations. (Great Britain’s Lou Bates had to retire at the start due to a technical issue).
Next eliminated were Switzerland’s Kathrin Fuhrer, Sweden’s Mika Söderström, USA’s Arielle Verharren, and France’s Sandrine Etienne, setting up the final sprint between Adegeest, Langham, and Godbe. Adegeest used a small rise in the closing meters as a launch pad, cruising past the British and American riders to take the win. At home, she quickly donned her world champion’s jersey and celebrated her win.
The first of the women’s races was on Zwift’s Rolling Highland’s course and saw a fast pace and a bunch that largely stayed together.
Femke de Zee, of the Netherlands, made an early effort, gaining a small gap, but was quickly brought back. After that, riders seemed reluctant to attack, preferring instead to stay hidden in the bunch. The powerful American team, which started with seven riders, burned some matches to keep the pace high, trading pulls with the British team of 12 riders, while also seeing other nations mixing it up.
The British team lifted the pace with two kilometers to go, stringing out the group, but failing to break it up.
The Americans moved all their riders to the front in the last kilometer and sent Godbe off the front in a strong attack that didn’t get a response. Godbe cruised to a win with more than a second of space between her and second-place rider Söderström. Langham finished third and Loes safely cruised across the line in sixth.
The shorter Climb stage presented the thirty remaining riders with three punishing climbs and mixed surfaces that added resistance on some steep grades. After winning the first stage, Godbe seemed eager to establish her dominance and went to the front early, stretching the peloton on the lower slopes of the climb.
The peloton started to splinter under pressure from pre-race favorite Kulchinsky, who led up the 8-percent grade.
The first descent proved critical, as some riders struggled to hang onto the furious pace. Langham went to the front on the second of three climbs, supported by her Great Britain teammates.
The second descent, the longer of the two, saw nearly all the remaining riders deploy their anvil powerups at the same moment – with three kilometers to go – accelerating the bunch down the gravel descent, and literally leaving riders who couldn’t keep up in the dust. Godbe was among the riders gapped and had to expend a lot of energy to regain the bunch.
Great Britain’s Mary Wilkinson went to the front on the last climb, with Langham tucked behind. While the USA tried to challenge for control, the race came down to a scrappy bunch sprint with Loes again showing patience and tactics to get herself safely to the line first. Having expertly avoided putting her nose in the wind until the closing meters, Loes entered the final round having only expended the minimum necessary energy placing herself as a strong favorite.
Loes Adegeest, Netherland
Zoe Langham, Great Britain
Jaqueline Godbe, United States