Amaury Sports Organisation has teamed up with online cycling platform Zwift to launch the first-ever Virtual Tour de France, with professional races taking place in both men’s and women’s classifications.
The Virtual Tour de France will take place over three weekends, beginning on July 4. For the final stages, Zwift has rendered virtual recreations of several iconic Tour de France locations including Mont Ventoux, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.
The third stage of the 2020 Tour de France would have been taking place across those same dates but for the Covid-19 pandemic forcing its postponement. The race is still scheduled to be held between August 29 and September 20.
ASO has secured some of the biggest names in cycling to compete in the event, with 23 professional men’s teams and 17 women’s teams confirmed. The athletes involved include four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Marianne Vos.
A virtual l’Etape du Tour de France – the mass participation equivalent of the main race – will also be held, offering amateur cyclists the chance to compete on the same virtual routes as the professionals.
Both are part of Tour de France United, a charity initiative in celebration of the Tour de France that will run until the conclusion of the rescheduled Tour de France in August raising money for five global charity partners (Emmaüs, Secours Populaire, Jeugdfonds Sport and Cultuur, BiJeWa and Qhubeka).
Yann Le Moenner, ASO general manager, said: “Our joint project with cycling teams, Zwift, charities and broadcasters is all about leveraging the newest esport technologies to put the spotlight on the champions who were supposed to ride the Tour de France in July, as well as bringing bicycles to people who do not have any.”
The International Cycling Union (UCI) signed a wide-ranging Memorandum of Understanding with Zwift platform in September last year, through which it is developing cycling esports events and holding a first-ever World Championships in the discipline.
Earlier this year, Discovery-owned international sports broadcaster Eurosport and Global Cycling Network joined forces with Zwift to launch the ‘Tour for All’ exhibition race.
The organisers behind the Tour de Suisse launched the Digital Swiss 5 in partnership with Rouvy, a rival platform to Zwift, with the series proving popular among broadcasters and cycling fans.