What's Cool In Road Cycling

Is CVR World Cup The Future of Cycling?

Cycligent Virtual Racing has been called the toughest video game in the world. But it was that and a lot more to the 40 invited riders who raced in the CVR World Cup in Los Angeles recently – going head to head in 4 categories to win a share of over $100,000 in cash and prizes over the season.   While the course inside Zwift’s training platform may have been imaginary, the effort – and emotions of riders and fans was very real.

Two hundred meters to go…  Cowbells clang behind cheering fans shouting encouragement as their favorite riders jump out of the saddle and plunge headlong into a max-effort sprint. Live commentators scream out the action, as camera crews try to keep focused on riders jostling for position. The atmosphere is electric as a lead group of 7 riders crank out huge watts in the all out dash for the line.

It’s a scene straight out of any road race we’ve witnessed as fans of bicycle racing – it could be at the Tour, a Classic, or even your local Tuesday night crit. The adrenaline, excitement, and sheer joy of watching athlete’s duke it out mano a mano never gets old, and the human drama of not knowing who will win – or lose – until the battle plays out in front of our own eyes in real time is addictive. No matter how it ends, we want more. Do it again!

Live action sprint in the Men’s finale…

This was the scene I witnessed over and over at the CVR World Cup indoor cycling event recently at the Velo Sport center in Los Angeles. But with one big difference… this race was “virtual”. Held indoors on 10 identically calibrated CycleOps Hammer trainers, connected to Zwift’s cycling software, these riders never moved an inch from the spot they started, even though they raced a few hundred kms over the two day event, through qualifying heats and into Sunday’s Finals.

And instead of competing from the solitude of your garage, basement, or whatever room you might have as your own designated “pain cave”, riders were gathered here in the flesh and blood, going head to head against 9 other riders in each heat. Some brought fans, who gathered around their favorite and urged them on to go deeper for the win.

The efforts were real, the excitement was real, the people were real, and were really here. The only thing missing was the “real” world – as this entire event took place inside Zwift’s cycling software, on large flat screens mounted in front of each rider, as part of the CVR World Cup cycling league.

The live race call by Hunter Allen & Dr Chris Haskell is all part of the action.

CVR stands for Cycligent Virtual Racing, and was created by Frank Garcia, whose software background and passion for cycling were inspired watching his son play virtual reality video games online, now part of the growing worldwide phenomenon of “eSports”. Electronic sports, where players compete in virtual worlds, playing virtually any game – or sport – a gaming developer can think of.   They run the CVR World Cup League of racing inside the Zwift platform.

Riders competed for over $70,000 in cash prizes.

ESports is a growing category of entertainment, already attracting huge crowds to watch players compete in arena-style settings.   Info I gathered around the internet suggests it will be an industry worth over $900 million in 2018.  And three years ago in 2015, the global eSports audience was 226 million people, and no one sees any sign of it’s growth slowing down.

One reason players and fans love it is because the virtual environment allows developers and producers to bring in mind-boggling amounts of data that can be called up on screens of players, and fans, to enhance the overall user experience.  The Zwift screens here showed off more than 20 distinct pieces of info to each rider as the pedaled around Wattopia in their Virtual Cockpits. Fans following online can watch the live events from anywhere there’s an internet connection, switching screens that include live views of each rider – so you can choose who you want to watch close-up as the race unfolds.

Another thing attracting fans to esports are the huge prize pools on offer, many of which include big cash payouts. Over the CVR League’s winter season, over $100,000 in cash and prizes were up for grabs.  This weekend alone, over $73,000 in cash was paid out, and every racer went home with a paycheck that ranged from $7800 down to over $1200 for the 10th place d riders in each category.  When was the last time you saw that kind of payout at a bike race?

And what’s better – is that the event is virtually open to anyone who wants to tryout. There were two categories for each of the men’s and womens’ divisions, called Elite & Performance.

All the riders must qualify on Zwift cycling software, as part of the CVR World Cycling League. Elite riders for each event may be invited by the organizers, and Frank Garcia sees a future where top name cycling stars could compete in this virtual world for big cash, as worldwide audiences grow and bigger sponsorship is attracted to promote their products and reach potential consumers.

How to Join?
There are two ways to enter the program and get a shot at winning some real money.  The first is by joining the CVR League and earning a selection invitation by competing in a series of races.

The second, and possibly more beneficial to any of us as riders, is to sign up for CVR 8 week training program designed by Hunter Allen which costs $79, with structured workouts and goals that lead to an invitation from the organizers.  It includes a series of set workouts that are designed, at the very least, to build your cycling fitness over those 8 weeks. The program also includes a few mandatory rides and a couple of races inside the CVR World Cup League on Zwift, and all the data captured is used to measure each rider’s performance and ability.

Several riders earned enough points through the Hunter Allen program in the CVR League to join a 5 day training camp in SoCal before the main event.

The idea of the Performance category is to encourage average or new riders to participate, with the reward of being invited to a 5 day training camp run by Hunter Allen (costs are covered by CVR for invitees), culminating in the two-day “World Cup” indoor racing event.

Events have been already been held in glamorous locations like Las Vegas, London, and Paris. From here in Los Angeles, the next is scheduled for Vancouver this summer.

The goal is to capture a worldwide online audience to sell to sponsors, and while the numbers are still small – around 1000 different viewers logged into the CVRWorldCup.com website to watch this weekend’s live broadcasts – they are growing.

But back in the real world at “trackside”, response from riders could not have been better. It’s an intense two days of racing where friendships were forged, competitive respect was high, and the sense of community was galvanized long before the final face Sunday afternoon.

ITC World Champ Lionel Sanders loved the event.

Naysayers might be critical of the “virtual” aspect of this competition, but believers see it as a new way to enjoy pedaling, stay fit, and get in on a bike race.  Current UTI Long Distance World Champion Lionel Sanders was perhaps the most famous participant this weekend, and called this “the future of cycling”.

Hunter Allen Explains the CVR World Cup

And regardless of the fact that riders didn’t move an inch on their bikes and raced inside a video game, the efforts, the sweat, the competition and emotion were all very real – and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Info on the next events, and how to get yourself involved can be found at CVRWorldCup.com
• Join the CVR League here
• The Next 8 Week Training Camp starts Monday April 2, 2018 – See the 8-week Hunter Allen Training Program here

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