For cyclists of all skill levels and racing statuses, July means one thing: the Tour de France. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a group ride in July and not talked about the Tour with my fellow riders. But this year, the Tour isn’t happening in July—not in the real world, anyway.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tour was postponed to the beginning of August and will run through September. Two additional months of training can be either a detriment or a benefit to riders, as most plan their entire year to peak throughout the Tour. Zwift, the online cycling and racing app, is now coming to the rescue with a virtual TdF.
This virtual Tour won’t be as harsh or as long as the real thing, but it’s a cool way for the pros to do something during the time they would’ve normally been on the Tour. The Zwift Tour is a stage race that will take place over three weekends starting on July 4th. Each stage will only last for about an hour, which is significantly shorter to each stage of the TdF.
But Zwift is working with ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France, to ann in-app elements similar to what you’d see on the Tour. They’ve even created two new maps specifically for the event. The Virtual Tour will also award the appropriate jerseys—green for the best sprinter, polka-dots for the best climber, white for the best rookie, and yellow for the overall winner.
Each stage will air live on Zwift’s website, buy you can also catch it on the Global Cycling Network (GCN), as well as various TV broadcasters in various countries. This is a huge win for Zwift and will likely increase the service’s exposure to cyclists who otherwise may not have been willing to give it a shot.
Speaking of, while the virtual Tour will just be for pro men’s and women’s teams (which will race separately, just like in real life), there will be an amateur event called the Virtual l’Etape du Tour de France for all Zwift users. The stages designed for the pro teams will be available for all users to test out, which should be a ton of fun. If you’re a cyclist and have never used Zwift before, this might be a great way to get your feet wet—these huge rides with thousands of participants are an absolutely blast.