History was made on Wednesday when Ashleigh Moolman Pasio took the first rainbow jersey awarded to a rider competing in the virtual world after the South African won the women’s UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
Moolman Pasio, who will ride for WorldTour team SD Worx next year in the real world following her transfer from CCC-Liv, completed the 50.035-kilometre course in the virtual world of Watopia in one hour 13mins 27sec. Moolman Pasio beat Sarah Gigante (Australia) by 0.064secs and Cecilia Hansen (Sweden) by 1.24sec after timing a late surge on the uphill finish to perfection.
“It was really awesome. I wasn’t a fan of virtual training before the lockdown but to now win the virtual world championships, I’m super proud,” said Moolman Pasio who turned 35 on Wednesday. “It’s now time to celebrate,” she told Eurosport before opening a bottle of champagne.
Moolman Pasio will be awarded a physical version of the rainbow jersey that all UCI world champions are given, and a digital version that she and her online avatar will wear during UCI-sanctioned Esport races in 2021.
Moolman Pasio added: “I know that virtual cycling, and Esports, is something quite new but I think it will become a big thing. I’m proud to be the first-ever Esports world champion. Of course, there will be some that say it’s not the same and it’s not as impressive, but in time more and more will convert, and they will enjoy it. I think the younger generation is really behind Esport, so there’s plenty more to come in the Esports world, and I’m very proud to be part of that movement.”
Shortly afterwards a former rower, Jason Osborne of Germany, won the men’s race ahead of Danish duo Anders Foldager and Nicklas Pedersen.
“It was a completely new experience for me,” the 2018 rowing world champion said. “I have raced on Zwift before but this is much bigger. The field was very tough and I just tried to keep calm.”
Both races were contested over the same course and with equal prize money, Moolman Pasio and Osborne each pocketing €8,000.