When the flag drops online for the inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships hosted by Zwift, the largest contingent of the 22 nations will be from the United States, with a total of 17 riders.
All five continents are represented in the two 50km virtual races on Wednesday, a total of 78 men and 54 women, with the US having the largest women’s team of nine riders, and the second-largest men’s team with eight riders, one fewer than Belgium.
The US men’s roster has a strong cast of qualifiers and selected riders, confirmed by USA Cycling in October, led by USA Zwift National Champion and former pro triathlete Holden Comeau (Saris + Pros Closet), who is currently ranked second in the world on the Zwift Power Rankings. From wild card additions made recently by the UCI and Zwift, notable additions included Cory Williams (L39ION LA), the 2019 US amateur criterium national champion, and EF Pro Cycling’s Lawson Craddock.
“It wasn’t necessarily on my radar [Esports Worlds], but the opportunity came up. I thought about it and it was a way to kick start my training for next year. Of course it’s exciting to race for the national team any time, I take a lot of pride in that,” Craddock, who has won four national titles as a junior, two in track (2008) and two in road (2010), told Cyclingnews from his home in Austin, Texas. “Also, I really love racing on Zwift, and get that competitive edge going. Fortunately, there was a spot open.”
Craddock said he prides himself in being one of the original “2015 Zwifters”.
“Five years ago, you’d maybe have 20 people on the island [Watopia] at one time. Now you have thousands. It’s incredible to see that growth. I have a pretty good understanding of how to be competitive, but I don’t race on the platform as much as I’d like to.”
Craddock last raced in October at the Giro d’Italia, where his best stage finish was eighth in the opening time trial on stage 1 to Palermo. After riding nine stages he withdrew from the race to return home for the birth of his second child, Noah.
He’ll take the virtual start line for the Esports Worlds at 3:45pm CET (9:45am EST). The races will be streamed live on Zwift’s Youtube and Facebook channels, with the women’s race beginning first at 2:40pm CET (8:40am EST).
“The main thing is everyone gets to race in their own home. The fact that everyone gets their own routine, it will make it an even field,” Craddock noted. “The beauty of it is that it’s not exclusive to one group of athlete. Exercise makes you feel good and it bring people together.”
USA Cycling selected its team in part through a qualifying event in October. The top three qualifiers for the US men were Jadon Jaeger (Adapt Cycling), Tanner Ward (First Internet Bank), and Tyler Williams (L39ION LA). Brian Hodges (Evoq.bike p/b Enshored), who was first in overall Zwift rankings in October and is now fourth, and Ryan Larson (Saris + Pros Closet), in the top 15, were named to the roster in October.
Three of the American women were ranked in the overall top five of the worldwide Zwift Power Rankings, with Evoq.bike p/b Enshored teammates Laura Matsen Ko and Courtney Nelson ranked second and third, respectively, and Kristen Kulchinsky (TWENTY20) in fifth. Special selections went to Lauren Stephens (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), who was ranked second in the world in virtual racing in October, and Christie Tracy (Saris + The Pro’s Closet), who was in the top 10 this year.
Shayna Powless (TWENTY20) is currently in the top 20 and was recently added to the US team, with two teammates competing at Worlds for Canada (Georgia Simmerling) and Colombia (Natalia Franco).
“I’m really excited and grateful for the upcoming Esports World Championships this week. It’s a unique opportunity on a new platform. We have four riders racing the event,” said team general manager Nicola Cranmer.
“Esports specialist Kristin Kulchinsky was selected through the selection process procedure set forth by USA Cycling, and Shayna Powless was a wild card selection. All four of our athletes are seasoned Zwift athletes with the two Americans being the most experienced.
“TWENTY20 has been racing Zwift for a couple of years, with this year filling up most of our schedule. The communication between our athletes this year has been constant, learning the game of Zwift, learning new courses and tactics. They regularly race and train together on Zwift, not only has it improved Zwift skills but its given the athletes a great point of focus this season as a great morale boost.”
The three wild card entries for the US women are Kristen Faulkner (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), Powless and Nelson, who recently retired from road racing with TIBCO. The three spots earned in qualifications for the US women were Jacqueline Godbe (Vision W), Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally Cycling), and Matsen Ko.
The Esport Worlds will be contested on a 50-kilometre course for both the men and women using fictional Zwift island of Watopia. Prize money totals €8,000 for the winner of each race, with the remaining two podium spots awarding €4,000 and €2,000, respectively.
Team USA for Esports Worlds
- Holden Comeau
- Lawson Craddock
- Brian Hodges
- Jadon Jaeger
- Ryan Larson
- Tanner Ward
- Tyler Williams
- Cory Williams
- Krista Doebel-Hickok
- Kristen Faulkner
- Jacqueline Godbe
- Kristen Kulchinsky
- Laura Matsen-Ko
- Courtney Nelson
- Shayna Powless
- Lauren Stephens
A bit of preview of @GoZwift World Champs and how I’m preparing with @FloSports! Enjoyed doing this shoot with @iandille. Check it out! https://t.co/EyKyB8J3xSDecember 1, 2020