The world’s most-watched bike race, the Tour de France, is going to be held virtually, in addition to the real race, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The first-ever virtual bike race was innovated by Zwift and Amuary Sport Organization, a company that provides online cycling and running programs.
Four stages have already taken place, with Stages 5 and 6 taking place this weekend on the 18th and 19th, respectively. The real race will still take place, only it has been pushed back to start on August 29 and run until September 20.
Virtual Tour de France
The virtual race features only six stages that last roughly an hour, taking place over the span of three weekends. The competition includes 23 men’s and 17 women’s teams who compete in separate races on stationary bikes set up wherever they are located. The cycling is broadcasted to more than 130 countries.
The women’s and men’s pro cycling teams are racing on the same courses and the same distance for each stage. Instead of individual cyclists wearing their own jersey, the jerseys are worn according to teams using a points system.
Teams are permitted to switch between riders for each stage. Zwift added an interesting element to the race called Power-ups, which are virtual boosts for riders.
Tour de France: Stages 1-4
The first stage was completed on July 4, and the first route took place in Nice, the Grand Depart of this year’s tour. Zwift made a map in their virtual world, Watopia Island, resembling the French Mediterranean town.
The route was 36.4km and 400m of climbing. British Cyclist April Tacey took home the victory of the first stage in the women’s section and South African Ryan Gibbons was the winner for the men.
Stage 2 was a mountain stage that also took place in Nice, and the route was 29.5km with 682m of climbing. American Lauren Stevens won in the women’s category and French cyclist Julien Bernard took the stage win for team Trek-Segafredo in the men’s section.
The third stage took place on July 11, and cyclists rode the route of the iconic French landmarks of Mont St. Michel and the Pont du Gard. The circuit was 48km with 266m of climbing. Tanja Erath of Canyon Sram won the women’s stage and Matteo Dal-Cin of Rally Cycling won the men’s stage.
The route for Stage 4 was Casse-Pattes, which translates to Leg Breaker, and was 45.8km with 310m of climbing. For the women’s race, April Tacey took another win for Team Drops, and for the men’s stage, Freddy Ovett of Israel’s Start-Up Nation won.
Going into Stage 5, Team TIBCO-SVB leads in points for the women’s race and NTT Pro Cycling team is leading in the men’s category. The final two stages will take place this weekend in virtual Mont Ventoux and Champs-Elysees.
Virtual Cycling for Women
For over 100 years, Tour de France was only open for male competitors. After a petition initiate by the riders in 2013, women could participate in ‘course d’ un jour,’ and it was only a modest alternative to the big event.
For the first time, 68 women competed in their first Tour de France. ASO and Zwift are looking to expand that into a new edition of a full 3-week virtual women’s Tour de France starting next year. Pro cyclist Ashleigh Moolman Pasio was excited to be part of the virtual race and believed that the virtual world is a new opportunity for women’s cycling.
Zwift has staged a couple of virtual races before, such as the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Co-founder and CEO of Zwift, Eric Min, said that he excited to host such an event and has worked furiously to prepare for the race for over two months. The company has over 2 million accounts, and Min hopes to expose the brand to the world even more through this wonderful opportunity.
Check out last year’s odds, picks, and predictions here to provide yourself with a clearer picture of who to bet on for this year’s champion.