Platforms like Zwift offer communication, learning, and even the opportunity to build a professional career. The virtual world is playing an increasingly important role in cycling, and the pandemic has only accelerated its development, including the impact it is having on women’s cycling.
Offering countless races, groups and workouts, virtual cycling provides many opportunities for women cyclists to ride with others, train and even become professional cyclists.
This is a place where there are no barriers to real life. You can skate against anyone, anywhere, anytime, regardless of your usual discipline.
Also, while in the real world there may be different distances, different prices, and ultimately different perspectives on men’s and women’s cycling, on platforms like Zwift, the rules of the game are the same for everyone.
Unlimited cycling workouts
Virtual bike platforms allow women to train and race without many of the restrictions that might exist in the real world.
They benefit women who don’t have time to race due to work, child care or other circumstances and make cycling affordable for many women because it can be as easy as riding a practice bike at home.
The virtual world of cycling also removes all real barriers that exist between disciplines. This is the only place where you can compete against a mountain biker, para-biker, road cyclist or anyone else anywhere in the world.
Zwift has a variety of women-only groups that provide a great training platform for all skill levels to reach their goals.
Many groups offer advice on setting new personal bests, racing tactics, driving tips and ultimately performance improvement. They offer the opportunity to experience and enjoy a supportive and sociable cycling environment that not everyone has access to in the real world.
Zwift is actively working to improve the conditions for women cyclists: events such as Rapha Women’s 100 are available exclusively to women – only those who are registered as women can participate.
While virtual cycling allows you to train with other people from all over the world, the opportunity to ride alongside cycling professionals and champions is another major attraction.
Riders like Eleanor Barker and Anna van der Breggen use Zwift to prepare for races and stay in shape. Sharing the road with these women provides an inspiring and motivating training environment that would not be possible in the real world.
Become a pro
For those with serious cycling ambitions, Zwift not only offers the opportunity to train and ride alongside the pros, but the platforms have also become an effective tool for identifying talent and can open up opportunities they might otherwise not have access to.
The Zwift Academy is a great example of this and a de facto leader in giving aspiring amateur cyclists the opportunity to turn pros. Since 2016, the Canyon-SRAM pro team has been selecting women through a series of competitions on Zwift as part of the Zwift Academy.
The latest winner is 18-year-old Maud Oudeman from the Netherlands, who became the Academy winner in December 2021. Oudeman became the sixth Zwift Academy winner, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ella Harris and Neve Bradbury, who are now professional cyclists. riding for Canyon-SRAM.
Other UCI teams have also used the platform to find new teammates. In 2021, Movistar launched the Movistar Team Challenge and invited five men and five women to join the Movistar E-Team.
And it doesn’t stop there. South African professional cyclist Ashley Mulman Pacio has been contracted by SD Worx for her results in the virtual world.
Not only does virtual cycling open up opportunities for women, it also promotes equality, especially in terms of equal pay.
It’s no secret that this perennial problem has a negative impact on real-life female cyclists, given the prevailing pay disparity between male and female professional cyclists.
For example, Lizzy Deignan received €1,535 for winning the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Women, compared to €30,000 for her male counterpart. His Trek-Segafredo team, while under no obligation to do so, decided to make up for this significant price difference.
However, in the virtual world of cycling, the difference in wages is not obvious. Zwift is an equal opportunity champion, with equal distance races and equal prizes. In July 2020, Zwift hosted a virtual Tour de France which gave professional women the opportunity to compete in the Tour de France, an option that will only be possible this year in the real world and which Zwift is sponsoring. The women’s race offered the same course as the men’s, equal prize money, and all six stages were broadcast live on Eurosport.
Zwift also hosted the first ever UCI eSports Cycling World Championship in 2021, where men and women received the same prize money and ran the same distance. Zwift will also host this year’s championship.
The world of virtual cycling has become a key promoter of women’s cycling, providing a place to train, ride with inspiring women, and even go pro. And in this world, Zwift plays a vital role in creating and fueling the growth of women’s cycling.
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