This year, the UCI is combining the bulk of its world championships into one super event, organizing a 10-day, 13-event mega worlds unlike anything seen before. It’s set to take place in and around Glasgow, Scotland August 3-13, and everything from road to MTB to BMX is represented.
Well, just about everything. Two disciplines are missing: cyclocross (because the season peaks half a year before, and spiritually it just wouldn’t be right to hold it in summer), and the Esports championship.
Zwift will host the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships February 18 and didn’t want this burgeoning event to miss out on the mega worlds atmosphere. The popular indoor training software company has created a new world specifically for it inspired by both the city of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole. After recreating several road worlds courses in the game over the years including Richmond and Innsbruck, this is the first time Zwift has created a world specifically for the virtual counterpart.
The new world contains five routes across a total of 58.8 kilometers. For now, riding the world will be limited to scheduled events. Free riding will follow in March after the world championship.
City and the Sgurr – 8.6km, 161m elevation gain. Sgurr means “rocky peak” in Scottish Gaelic, and like the best real climbs the peak features two ascent possibilities, with roundabouts at the bottom to quickly loop back and repeat the climbs.
Glasgow Crit Circuit – 3km, 33m elevation gain. This crit course set in the city center is far from pancake flat, with short, punchy climbs punctuating the quick laps.
Rolling Highlands – 14.1km, 105m elevation gain. Rolling hills throughout.
Loch Loop – 8km, 71m elevation gain. Designed as a time trial course, it’s mostly flat with some minor rolling hills.
The Muckle Yin – 25.1km, 279m elevation gain. This single route incorporates most of Scotland’s roads in one loop.
What’s it like?
I had the opportunity to pre-ride three of the five courses this past week: City and the Sgurr, the Glasgow Crit Circuit, and Rolling Highlands. Here’s what it’s like.
In Zwift Scotland, it’s always fall. The trees are beginning to turn those familiar shades of yellow and orange, creating a pleasant backdrop for struggling up the climbs featured in the City and the Sgurr route.
Between the lochs, castles, quaint villages, jagged peaks, and moss covered roads in varying conditions, the countryside in this new world is undeniably Scottish.
Come nightfall, there’s just as much to look at. The northern lights dance behind constellations, and lightning bugs emerge to keep you company.
Take on the crit course and you’ll find pubs, bike stores, and book stores — aka a thriving downtown with the exact essentials I need to lead a fulfilled life, and nothing superfluous like grocery stores.
Like other Zwift worlds modeled on the real world, the map seems quite condensed. You can ride out to the countryside and up steep climbs in a matter of minutes, and just as quickly be back in an urban environment complete with cobblestones and retail fronts.
- There’s far too much blue sky for a region that averages under five hours of sunshine a day in August and rains every two days on average, even in summer. However, the occasional bout of fog and brief storm brings it back in touch with reality (the virtual kind).
- Wahoo’s Kickr is the official smart trainer of the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, so despite the recent legal battles and increased competitiveness in both the training software and hardware categories between the two companies, Wahoo is featured on barrier advertisements along the route.
- The fans seem cheerier than usual. It’s just a gut feeling but I’m sure of it.
- Okay, that headline is a bit of a lie, I did find Nessie, though not in her natural habitat. Keep an eye out in the city center crit course for a mural of the mythical creature. But who knows, maybe she actually is out there in one of the map’s lochs waiting to be found, just like the Yeti on Alpe du Zwift.
- I didn’t notice a single distillery or golf course.
- The wildlife ranges from the normal to the peculiar. There’s the cows and deer grazing in the countryside (expected) — and then there’s the imposing, ever-present Scotty the Squirrel statues, what appeared to be cats cheering by clapping their paws in the crowd, and if I’m not mistaken (I probably am) a rat-statue fountain.
- Having parked cars on the crit course seems dangerous. The race organizers should look into that.