eSports: Where the lines between historical endeavours and a digital future merge

by | Jun 14, 2023 | Case study, Insights, Technology

By Mike Styer, General Manager at Breakpoint

Athletic achievement has been celebrated for as long as humans have been capable of running, jumping and throwing things. Indeed, athletes feature in some of mankind’s oldest artworks.

Digital technology, on the other hand, has been seen as futuristic, and those harnessing and driving it are often viewed as chair-bound, non-athletes.

But times have changed. The lines between ancient, time-honoured activities and the technologies of the future have become blurred.

A shining example of this is Cycling Esports, an activity participated in by members of the Breakpoint team, and friends of the Breakpoint family. For the uninitiated, Cycling Esports is competitive cycling using a stationary smart bike or trainer, connected to an indoor cycling app. Far from being a solitary activity, Cycling Esports allows participants to join group rides with people from anywhere in the world, and compete against them in a variety of ways. Ecycling using the Zwift virtual worlds app was officially approved as the newest discipline in cycling at the UCI Congress in September 2018 and was the first virtual sport to be awarded official discipline status by an International Governing Body.

Growing Virtual Communities

We spoke to Courteney Webb, a well-known road cyclist from Cape Town, who was also selected to represent South Africa at the recent UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.

“Cycling Esports is an interesting format, with a lower barrier to entry than road cycling. Many riders do both Zwift and road cycling, but the discipline is so new that some of the best Esports athletes might not be considered professional on the road,” she says.

Webb used Zwift to supplement her road training in bad weather, and increased her Esports participation during the pandemic lockdown. Now she sees growing numbers of South Africans – particularly women – embracing Esport due to safety concerns. “Ecyclists need a bike or trainer, monthly subs to the Esport platform, and possibly also some coaching. But the barriers to entry are lower than those for road cycling, which can be male dominated, scary, and sometimes dangerous and daunting. With Esports, you don’t have to have a group to train with for safety, you just climb on the trainer and get the session done. Plus, it’s fun and there’s a community involved – you can chat to people riding with you from around the world,” she says.

Webb explains that Esport cycling is typically high intensity training, compared to road cycling. Competitive Esport Cycling offers prize money, recognition, and potentially the right to wear the rainbow stripes. “The barrier to entry to compete with global athletes is lower. It’s accessible, and you don’t have to dedicate your life to travelling with your team, so now a stay at home mom or working person can compete internationally,” she says.

Just like in any other human endeavour, there is a risk of cheating. Webb explains: “It may be a new discipline, but ‘Edoping’ happens. There have been scenarios involving some level of hacking or lying about your weight on the platform.” Competition controls are now as rigorous as in any other sport, she says.

Finding eBalance in sport

Since Webb participates in both road cycling and Cycling Esports, we asked her which she prefers. “It’s hard to say. Both have been an integral part of my career. But the direction Esport is going in may mean it would require more dedication in future, so cyclists like me would have to decide which direction to focus on,” she says.

As a firm specialising in innovative technology solutions, Breakpoint welcomes this new era in which digital technology is inextricably tied to everything humans do, lowering barriers to entry and creating new ways for people to enrich their lives. We’re so excited by the possibilities of Esports, that we’re set to sponsor South African athletes like Courtney. Watch this space…