(Article originally published on our sister site endurance.biz in March 2023.) As virtual cycling platform MyWhoosh gears up for its US$1 million MyWhoosh Championship, virtual cycling writer Chris Schwenker goes behind the scenes to explore how esports racing and identifying talent have become core components of the MyWhoosh offering.
For the new breed of cyclist with dreams of finding a pathway to pro racing, the free virtual cycling platform MyWhoosh’s value is more than its lavish cash prizes.
Ask any esports racer in the know, and they’ll tell you, “The first rule of MyWhoosh is: You do not talk about MyWhoosh. The second rule of MyWhoosh is: YOU DO NOT. TALK. ABOUT MYWHOOSH!” With upwards of US$314,000 up for grabs any given month, there’s no wonder MyWhoosh has become one of cycling esports best kept secrets.
“I was initially attracted to MyWhoosh due to the large cash prizes, but I soon realized that the platform had much more to offer than just generous prize money,” said 30-year-old New Zealander Michael Vink.
“After only a few months of racing on MyWhoosh, my form improved dramatically and resulted in some of the best legs of my 15-year career.”
MyWhoosh puts Michael Vink on pro team radar
Founded in 2019 out of Abu Dhabi, UAE, the free virtual cycling platform MyWhoosh prioritizes high-level esports and attracts elite-level talent.
Thanks to his strong performances on MyWhoosh, Michael Vink rode his legs to a one-year deal in 2023 with UAE Team Emirates, which competes at the UCI WorldTeam level.
“Michael has multiple national championships, so we were well aware of his ability to ride a bike and find his way in the peloton,” noted UAE Team Emirates representative Luke Maguire. “He was consistently winning races on My Whoosh with impressive power numbers, and that’s, ultimately, what put him on our radar.”
Former #1 ranked Zwift racer J Bruhn also admits he was lured to MyWhoosh… “Purely because of the prize purses, but my motivation has shifted because I’m aligned with the vision, and I want to support their advancement of esports.”
MyWhoosh also boasts the ‘most robust performance verification of any platform’ and claims to host the highest level of esports racing worldwide. With the signing of Michael Vink, it’s safe to say that racing on MyWhoosh has become a viable pathway to the pro circuit, and will likely top the list of reasons up-and-coming racers compete on the virtual platform.
Identifying talent is a MyWhoosh priority. By claiming to deliver the highest standards for fair racing, the platform provides an arena for any racer looking to catch the eye of a pro team director.
Former World Tour Coach Kevin Poulton, now Coaching Consultant at MyWhoosh, sees a future for talent identification in esports. He said “Gone are the days of talent scouts traveling the world and watching over 100 races on the side of the road to identify talented riders.”
Now, the riders come to the talent scout through virtual racing.
Let’s not overlook that MyWhoosh is the official virtual cycling platform of UAE Team Emirates. MyWhoosh supports the team by providing an indoor option that UAE Team Emirates’ riders use for training and specific race preparation.
The platform collaborates with team coaches and includes training content in-game from the UAE Team Emirates performance group for the public to experience how the team trains.
The financial give and takes aside, Poulton and MyWhoosh contend the platform is best positioned to identify talent and develop racers. Its innovative proprietary performance verification, the 45km distance of the races, and the variety of route profiles provide a team’s performance group with a strong indication of a rider’s ability.
MyWhoosh’s Poulton continued, “Rather than having a rider complete individual workouts that target a specific power duration, our racing provides the extra motivation and opportunity for riders to show us what they are truly capable of.”
The MyWhoosh performance verification team reviews each racer’s results after every event to create a ‘biological signature’. They use the data to plot a racer’s unique power duration curve allowing talent scouts to view how often they hit their best.
In addition, with this power duration curve in hand, the values can be compared to racers at the different levels of world cycling to determine where their data places them. For elite riders looking to be noticed, the 45km race distance is seen as a reliable opportunity to show what they can do for over an hour.
Michael Vink’s race performance caught the eye of Poulton early on using this formula. Poulton recalls, “He caused me many late nights in meetings with our performance verification team, spread across multiple time zones, where we closely analyzed his performance.”
Before he raced on MyWhoosh, Poulton knew nothing about Vink and his ability. However, he does understand why UAE Team Emirates thinks MyWhoosh has a talent-identification advantage over other platforms.
According to Poulton, “Doing a 10-min interval is a nice way to show what the rider can do when fresh. However, give the rider a 5km climb in a race for prize money, and we are going to see something special.”
Vink agrees, “The racing is so intense, yet always achievable, with cash incentives to help you push that little bit harder, it’s no wonder that MyWhoosh has been a mainstay of my training and racing program for the past 18 months.”
It’s difficult to disagree with the track record of major player Zwift’s talent identification portal, the Zwift Academy. In its seventh year, the Zwift Academy program is an annual competition consisting of a series of baseline rides and pre-determined structured pro contender workouts.
Five male and five female riders compete in the Zwift Academy finals for the chance at a professional road contract. The finalists spend nearly a week living together and face off in a reality show meets team training camp format.
2018 winner Ella Harris won a stage of the Women’s Herald Sun Tour and presently races for Le Col-Wahoo. 2017 winner Tanja Erath now races for EF Education-TIBCO-SVVB, and 2020’s Neve Bradbury recently signed an extension with Canyon-SRAM although her future is up in the air.
We can’t forget the men’s 2020 Zwift Academy winner Jay Vine, who won two stages in three days in the Vuelta de Espana, although crashed out while wearing the polka dot jersey. Incidentally, Vine signed a two-year deal with UAE Team Emirates and won the 2023 season’s first major race, the Tour Down Under, alongside his new teammates.
“The world of virtual cycling has definitely been an important stepping-stone in getting me where I am today,” acknowledged Vine. “Though I think I’ve definitely shown what I can do on the road this year, and that I’ve made the transition and I’m here on merit.”
Jay Vine’s road results speak for themselves and talk to the significant role that virtual cycling plays in shaping the careers of this new breed of cyclist. Like Paige Onweller, who learned to race on Zwift and earned a pro contract in two short years, there’s no denying the merit in both Zwift and MyWhoosh’s advantages for talent identification.
UAE Team Emirates’ Luke Maguire sees it too. “It was not just the numbers that led to the (Michael Vink) signing. There are many factors, not least the rider’s personality and how they can integrate themselves into a group and really be part of a team.”
Maguire acknowledges that Vink’s numbers and physical potential played a big part. However, the team signed Michael because he is a good fit. Not just for his riding capabilities but also for what he can bring off the bike in terms of being a team player and good teammate. You can’t get that by watching an avatar on a screen.
Maguire continued, “We don’t think virtual cycling will suddenly become a new standard for signing riders for professional teams. But can platforms like MyWhoosh help spot talent and be a small step on the path to a potential professional career? Absolutely.”
Poulton and MyWhoosh also see the merit in integrating rider personality with data in talent identification to create a tool for all professional teams in the future.
“Professional teams will use MyWhoosh to host their own style of talent ID through racing, structured testing, or training programs,” said Poulton. “It’s important that teams use virtual cycling to connect with their community. Specifically, with UAE Team Emirates, an academy style program is a perfect addition to current racing.”
If the proof is in the result, then notch one for MyWhoosh. Michael Vink may be the first of many, but not the last budding superstar that shines a virtual path.
“I’m very happy to be representing UAE Team Emirates in the WorldTour, especially while still being able to continue competing on MyWhoosh,” Vink said. “The future is extremely exciting as UAE Team Emirates is a team I’ve admired for a long time, and to ride some of the biggest races in the world while still using the ever-growing MyWhoosh platform is a dream come true for me.”
That dream may be a reality for many more to come. The chances are good, according to MyWhoosh’s Poulton, “There are several riders whose name keeps coming up in conversation amongst the performance group. We will continue to observe their performance and the season ahead.”
Watch this space.