What does eSports mean to you?

The Zommunique asked elite eRacers from around the world to share their experience and thoughts on what eSports means to them!

Matthew Brandt

Where are you from?
Holliday, Missouri
What team do you race for?
EatDIRT
How long have you been involved in eSports?
5 Years!
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports to many people probably means wins, glory, and defeating an opponent. We work together to find mutual goals and achieve them on DIRT (Dads/Moms Inside Riding Trainers)and MIRT.

Sometimes it is a fantasy football draft. Sometimes it means coming together to win the WTRL TTT Espresso division.

eSports, to me, is much bigger than just a sport. It represents friendships, family, and encouragement.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

The future of eSports is bright because it is inclusive to all. It has become something special, especially now in the time of COVID-19. Anyone can easily pick up an eSport, make friends in that eSport and thrive.

It is no longer only about the professionals. It is about everyone. Everyone being able to play is the future. Some people are currently excluded from eSports due to a lack of good internet. Networks like Starlink being entirely online will enable anyone to join in the fun.

Liz Van Houweling

Where are you from?
Adel, Iowa, USA
What team do you race for?
Pro Vision Racing
How long have you been involved in eSports?
10 months
What does eSports mean to you?

As a mother of two young kids, eSports has been such a positive experience. My mental health has improved as I have gotten the chance to connect with people worldwide who share my passion.

And physically, I also feel so much healthier and stronger as it gives me an outlet to really push myself. Training and racing are so convenient, efficient, and also just so much fun!

Being involved with a team, I’ve made some great “virtual” friends. It’s made it easy to stay accountable to the training while also enjoying the process.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

eSports is only going to continue to grow as more people see the benefits of it. And while I think it would be awesome if it eventually became more of a recognized sport (Olympics?!), it really is something for just the average person.

eSports is perfect for parents and working people with limited free time and also individuals living in places with less than ideal weather and outdoor training grounds.

Those that are already involved just have to continue to spread the word and help others to have a positive experience when they give it a try so that we continue to grow the eSport community!

Hywel Davies

Where are you from?
Rugby UK
What team do you race for?
Wahoo Le Col
How long have you been involved in eSports?
Racing on trainers since 2004 in Imagic league, indoor rowing since 2007, Zwift for 3 years
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports allow me to compete and race at a high level and push to the limit as often as I like in a safe and inexpensive environment. Outdoor racing is limited and expensive, and without continually upgrading equipment, it’s not easy to compete.

Zwift is safe to race on and gives the competition fix as I get older and have to keep finding new ways to stay motivated. Zwift teams create new rivalries and friendships, but above all, it’s a perfect way to challenge yourself continually.

Circumstances dictate that I cannot risk having an accident away from home, and the challenges with traffic on the roads are continuously getting harder. If it were not for zwift, I would be 10kg heavier and back rowing!

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

It will increase, but there needs to be standardization of equipment and platform to be a serious sport. There are too many variants at the moment, and they will get worse.

Indoor rowing racing had one machine for racing and one platform. You could not alter or cheat the machine, so the race against anyone in the world was consistently fair.

In the same room, you know the machines are standard. The streaming is excellent, the broadcasts are tremendous, but there are too many unknowns.

Dual recording helps, but many do not, and many who only ride or race indoors have no idea what their power should be and won’t question it.

It would not happen on a standardized machine. You did not need to be an excellent outdoor rower to be a great indoor rower. Same with cycling, but there needs to be a better way of standardizing.

Julia Schallau

Where are you from?
Giessen, Germany
What team do you race for?
Beastmode pb Rose
How long have you been involved in eSports?
1 Year!
What does eSports mean to you?

Everything! I can’t imagine the last year without eRacing and training on Zwift. With the team and coach, I could take eRacing to the next level.

Learning how to race with tactics wasn’t easy for me, but I’m most thankful for Seb as a coach and person. For me, it’s about the small and big challenges I experience on Watopia or elsewhere: participating in races, TTTing, or having a go at a segment.

Indoors I’m entirely in my element, which helps me to improve further. Moreover, I enjoy the community in group rides while chatting and riding along with fellow sportsmen and -women.

Recovery is critical, and why not enjoy the speed of the blob. Lastly, it’s amazing how Zwift removes barriers and helps you to stay connected no matter where you are.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

I think eSports has a bright future, because it’s possible to set up Zwift always and everywhere. With Zwift it’s possible to compete with one another. I hope the support and recognition will grow in the future, so indoor racing is as much appreciated as outdoor racing.

For racing at the highest level the rules need to be more strict. Everyone having the same trainer would make me trust more in the fairness of other competitors.

Mike Cuming

Where are you from?
Bendigo, Victoria, AUS
What team do you race for?
Saris - NoPinz
How long have you been involved in eSports?
2 Years
What does eSports mean to you?

For me, it’s a release to scratch that competitive itch. It is pretty easy to fit in when you are time-poor. Fit in a workout around work and feel like you’ve had a great workout.

Also, the social aspect of it is great. Get to know people from all around the Globe, especially my teammates with whom you do these Zwift races, then discuss how much you just suffered and laugh about it.

Also, for me, my mum and dad both use Zwift. With me living in Australia with them in the UK, I can ride with them and see what races or workouts they have been doing.

It makes me feel a little bit closer to them, especially during this pandemic.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

Compared to your regular esports, Zwift is just a baby. It’s been around for 6-7 years, and less than that has been used for actual competitions, so it’s still developing into a somewhat serious part of eSports.

The pros of it are the accessibility to race with people worldwide from your shed/spare room etc., it is great. There aren’t many downsides until you get to the serious upper end of racing, where legitimacy comes into it.

If you’re competing for money, you need to know that it is all fair. With the wide range of trainers and power meters not all created equal and definitely not manufactured with this in mind, it’s difficult, so you have to roll with it right now.

Last year was a great start having a world championship and seeing professionals mix it with regular guys from the comfort of their own homes.

It really makes it interesting to see how these guys with massive engines but with perhaps less experience on the platform go against these guys that are a little less powerful but know the game inside out.

Also, last year, everyone in that race had to use the same trainer, which is a good step at making it as fair as possible for all riders. They had to have a biological passport too.

Maybe in the future, when we can freely travel again, we could have world champs or national champs at a specific location. I know you think that takes away the ability to just jump on after work at home, but just like other eSports, if you’re in it that seriously, it’s the fairest way to go about it.

I don’t see it becoming as big as conventional eSports like Fortnite, Counterstrike, FIFA, which have Millions of dollars worth of prize money for tournaments.

I hope I’m wrong, but hey, if someone watches a Zwift race and decides to get involved, then getting people on bikes and getting more active, surely that’s a win.

Kara Tranter

Where are you from?
Worcestershire, UK
What team do you race for?
Team Fearless
How long have you been involved in eSports?
Prior to finding triathlon/cycling I was heavily involved in the other kind of eSports (gaming) for several years, managing teams, event admin and traveling across Europe. I've been on Zwift though for about 3 years and been managing the Fearless ZRL teams for almost a year.
What does eSports mean to you?

It’s my time to just focus on myself. We live in such a demanding world with everyone and everything jostling for your attention.

I have a lot of things to juggle; a full-time job, young children, husband, a house to manage, my training in other sports (triathlon), races, and the coaching I deliver. When I Zwift, it is just me on my bike, not the Mum, the wife, the Financial controller, the clothes washer, or the coach.

Just me, my bike, and I. The camaraderie within eSports is also something special. There is certainly something for everyone.

It has attracted such a diverse range of people that it’s become easy to find like-minded or people of a similar ability to ride and engage with, making every interaction that bit more fun and keeps you coming back for more.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

There is certainly a bright future for eSports, the pandemic has certainly shown that. The community spirit grew ever bigger with more teams, races and social rides. It was particularly special to see eSports leading the way in terms of equal coverage and footing for Men’s & Women’s racing, like the Virtual Tour de France.

For too long has Women’s racing been side lined and given shorter courses and minimal support. ESports can certainly build on this and lead the way whilst real life racing lags behind.

As for what it will take to get there? A lot of hard work and determined people.

Jesper Agertoft Pihl

Where are you from?
Denmark
What team do you race for?
DBR
How long have you been involved in eSports?
8 Years
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports make it easy to do my training, take care of my job, and my family at the same time.

eSports also alllow me to make friends all over the world.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

eSports has grown a lot in the past 2 years and it will continue as the internet gets faster, and as the platforms and equipment continue to improve.

Laura Epelbaum

Where are you from?
Devon, Pennsylvania
What team do you race for?
Team Fearless
How long have you been involved in eSports?
4 Years!
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports represent a great athletic opportunity for women. Esports (Zwift) is a great way to remain competitive and gain fitness even during winter.

We have a wonderful community of teams and endless racing opportunities!!

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

I believe the future of eSports is limitless! With the proper rules and regulations I believe eSports could become a whole new sport separate from outdoor sports. I can envision pro teams, stage races, huge tournaments with prizes and even stadium events with live spectators.

Ryan Larson

Where are you from?
Galloway, NJ
What team do you race for?
Saris - NoPinz
How long have you been involved in eSports?
Since 2018
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports means racing and having fun with my friends and teammates every morning. It has allowed me to satisfy my competitiveness since retiring from running after college.

Competing in endurance sports has defined me since I can remember, and after I finished my last college track meet in 2016, I believed that point in time would be my fitness pinnacle.

eSports has allowed me to realize you have way more to give than you think. At this point, my highest achievement in esports is finishing 9th in the UCI eSports cycling world championships while representing the USA.

eSports gave me the chance to represent my country, and what more incredible achievement can I ask.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

The future of eSports, I believe, can go all the way to the Olympic level. It is already at the UCI level, so I feel it’s just a matter of time.

Where it gets complicated is the perception of legitimacy in eSports cycling. Performance verification has come a long way, but racers still have this “I don’t need to prove my legitimacy ” mindset.

This thought process and lack of transparency are what will limit how far eSports can go. The top riders in eSports cycling should welcome individuals asking about validity.

Holding our fellow racers accountable is what will help eSports reach its potential.

Marlene Bjarehed

Where are you from?
Sweden
What team do you race for?
Team Swedish Zwifters
How long have you been involved in eSports?
Did my first race on Zwift in January 2018. Started racing for Velocity Vixen shortly thereafter.
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports, for me, is camaraderie and support. I enjoy racing and chatty group rides; sprint your heart out on Dirt Friday Sprintapalooza or chit-chat as you spin your legs on Velocity Dig the Bike fantastic on a recovery Monday.

eSports also means fierce competition, racing with strong women (and men) from all over the world. There are races every day, all day, and across all time zones.

It has also been a great entry to the sport of cycling. Before Zwift, I had only been on a road bike a few times.

I still do most of my riding indoors, but on a sunny day, you may also find me outdoors hunting for a Strava QOM up a local hill (unfortunately, there is a lack of hills in the southern part of Sweden.

Thom Thrall

Where are you from?
Nashville, Tennessee
What team do you race for?
NeXT pb Enshored
How long have you been involved in eSports?
Started racing in June 2020
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports is a new discipline of cycling that brings together the global community and competition of all skill levels from the convenience of your home.

eSports has enabled me to progress my cycling career to new heights, and I look forward to continuing this journey.

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

I’d like to see more esports reach a similar stage to the professional world tour. A yearly calendar with one day events and stage races across different racing platforms. In order to get there, we need to stay the course while remaining open to change, innovation and growing pains along the way.

Courtney Nelson

Where are you from?
California
What team do you race for?
Saris + The Pro’s Closet
How long have you been involved in eSports?
3+ Years
What does eSports mean to you?

eSports has allowed me to pursue new goals and be competitive, racing against the top in the world. The biggest takeaway is that the platform has pushed my limits and focus on the craft.

It is highly competitive, and the suffering just gets better for each race. It is a reminder to keep pushing, and you can always get stronger by racing those who are. No half sends!

What is the future of eSports and what will it take to get there?

eSports is growing rapidly. Multiple platforms, highly competitive races, increased investors and sponsorship has brought tremendous awareness to racers of all ages and abilities. Racers need to focus on doing the right thing and keep the sport fun.

What does Virtual Cycling Mean to You?  Check out what members of the virtual cycling community had to say in this post previously on The ZOM!

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