Zwift is to host the 2022 Cycling Esports World Championships in February ©Getty Images

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has confirmed that online fitness platform Zwift is to host the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships on February 26.

Virtually, races are to take place on the New York map around Central Park, following on from last year's edition which was on Zwift's Watopia map.

Both men's and women's elite riders are to cover two full circuits of the 22.5-kilometre route before climbing for 1.4km with an average gradient of 6.1 per cent, totalling a route of 54.9km and 944 metres of climbing.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to build on the success of last year's milestone event with the second UCI Cycling Esports World Championships," said UCI President David Lappartient.

"The Olympic Virtual Series held earlier this year showed how cycling esports has the ability to drive global participation in cycling. 

"It is therefore exciting to reveal a new opportunity for emerging cycling esports stars enabling them to compete with household names from the UCI WorldTour peloton."

There are qualifiers for the Championships with five continental competitions in Oceania, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas on November 27 and 28.

The top five in each race are to be awarded a spot in the elite field for the World Championships.

"I'm delighted that community racers will be offered this new pathway into the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships in 2022," said Eric Min, Zwift chief executive and co-founder.

"Cycling esports was born from community racing, no different to any other form of esports competition, and it’s within this community where most of the talent lies. 

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio won the women's race in 2020 ©Getty Images
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio won the women's race in 2020 ©Getty Images

"Cycling esports is a new discipline and skill, tactics and experience all play a huge role. 

"I truly believe that we are creating one of the most accessible forms of competition."

As well as through the qualifiers, the UCI will be awarding automatic invites to 23 National Federations based on cycling esports community size and depth of talent in esports and UCI road rankings.

Participants are competing remotely from their own residences or training bases and winners of both World Championships races are to be given the rainbow champion, acknowledging their achievement.

The first edition of the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships were held in 2020 and the men's and women's winners were Jason Osborne of Germany and South Africa's Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.