The following is an excerpt from Steve Brunner’s story (The Outer Line) about virtual racing where he speaks to Rally Cycling’s Gavin Mannion and managing director Charles Aaron.
What is virtually real anymore in this stay-at-home virtual reality world?
As unknown ‘e-racers’ promulgate their watts-per-kilo against pro riders on platforms such as Zwift, virtual events like the recent Tour of Suisse stage race pit a gaggle of WorldTour and pro riders against each other on the Rouvy platform.
Is this a fashionable but temporary trend, or the emergence of a new sport, or segment of a sport? Or, it is a hybrid? Either way, cycling stands to gain, especially in comparison to other sports.
Other prominent leagues like the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have struggled to keep relevant during the pandemic, often relying on media partners to showcase past games and features. Meanwhile, cycling appears on the precipice of new offerings for its fans by presenting virtual racing which is in the words of many “pretty legitimate.”
During the first virtual stage of the Tour de Suisse, commentator and former world hour-record holder Alex Dowsett of the U.K. called it the “dawning of a new era for pro racing.”
At the same time, the great Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin called it “not real racing” and not worth real consideration.
With every passing day, as the prospects for big races this year like the Tour de France and a fall Paris-Roubaix inch closer to reality, pro teams and their athletes are adjusting to a new indoor reality. To race or not to race – virtually? In the current realms of reality, spectators are left to watch on their computers instead of the side of the road. The famous roadside parties replaced by virtual happy hours.
“My big take away from these sessions on Zwift, or even my stage 1 race of the Tour of Suisse, is that it is as good as any way to simulate a race – and even better than I thought,” said Rally Cycling’s Gavin Mannion of the U.S. “A lot of us entered the race I’m sure with certain expectations not sure how to treat it as a real race. From the adrenaline before the gun went off to seeing the screen with the other riders – some of them the top pros in the world – it became very real. It was kinda cool.”
Read the full story here.