British Cycling has agreed a two-year partnership with online training platform Zwift, which will see the creation of a new British Cycling eRacing Championships.
Zwift, which will also become the official training community of British Cycling, will help to power a first-ever national-level virtual reality cycling event in 2019.
It follows moves by cycling’s international governing body, the UCI, to introduce a global eSports World Championships using VR.
The UK contest will be open to any amateur rider with British Cycling membership, offering the reward of a national title.
The sport’s national governing body hopes it will help to unearth fresh racing talent.
Jonathan Rigby, British Cycling’s commercial director, said: “We are excited about what this could mean for identifying talent. We are proud to have a wealth of gifted riders competing on the world stage and we are confident that Zwift technology will enable us to unearth more future stars.
The British Cycling eRacing Championships format will be formed of a series of qualifying rounds, before culminating in a live final event between the top-ranked riders.
Riders competing in the finals will battle for the KALAS Sportswear-designed national jersey across a multi-event format, comprising a series of short races, which includes a time trial and elimination race.
Eric Min, Zwift CEO and co-founder, said: “Wearing your country’s national stripes is a huge honour, but relatively few ever get the chance to compete.
“But that is not the case with the British Cycling eRacing Championships, powered by Zwift, as everyone in the country is eligible to throw their hat into the ring.
“We are looking at dates in February and March 2019, so now is a good time as ever to start training and keep in shape this winter.”
As part of their agreement, Zwift and British Cycling will also work together to deliver a structured training plan for the national governing body’s 146,000-strong membership, with the aim of bringing British Cycling’s community closer.
Progression tracking and exclusive in-game items will also be available through the platform, as well as virtual rides with the Great Britain Cycling Team.
The first rider to lead a community group ride will be double Paralympic champion Steve Bate on 12th December, with world and Paralympic champion Jody Cundy leading the final ride for the year on 19th December.
“The eSports market is particularly exciting for cycling as it enables so many more people to participate and be active,” Rigby added.
“We are thrilled to be exploring this new territory with Zwift to innovate in cycle sport. Their technology and our cycling expertise will together allow communities of cyclists to get more out of riding bikes for competition and for fun.”