Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.
During the late spring and early summer 2020 while the pandemic shut down bike racing outdoors, Project Echelon Racing, a domestic elite team and veterans non-profit, provided a platform for domestic elites, ProTour teams to continue racing, albeit virtually.
Working with the virtual platform RGT Cycling, the National Association of Professional Race Directors (NAPRD) and USA Cycling, Echelon Racing Promotions developed an eight-race series of virtual events that mimic real-life courses.
The virtual competitions will be hosted on the RGT platform, and take place from November through early March.
The Echelon Racing League is set to feature 20 of the top men’s and women’s teams from across North America, as well as select e-sports and international teams all of whom race in-game in their real-life cycling kits. The league will recognize individual race winners, as well as an overall series competition, and will feature a $10k prize list to be split equally among men’s and women’s fields.
With real money on the line, a governance model is being developed for the Project Echelon Racing league in collaboration with USA Cycling and other national cycling federations to ensure safe and clean sport for all.
There will be an opportunity for elite riders and their teams not a part of the league to “race off” for the chance to compete as wildcards in the professional races.
Now operating as Echelon Racing Promotions, a subsidiary of Project Echelon Racing, the organization announced they will be continuing their work to enhance the sustainability, scalability, and visibility of bike racing through e-sports in a premier league format during the road offseason.
Echelon Racing Promotions is set on creating an opportunity to have a set calendar and team rosters that allows fans to follow their favorite teams and riders as they compete at the highest level in e-sports.
According to the organization’s president Eric Hill, “In a post-event survey, it was shown that 82 percent of teams and riders who competed in the events this [past] spring would be motivated to participate in similar events during the offseason. Additionally, 75 percent of team directors reported equal or greater engagement from followers and fans during virtual events as compared to IRL events and that their sponsors were pleased with their team’s involvement.”
Hill was instrumental in creating virtual editions of the Joe Martin Stage Race, the Tour of the Gila, and the Tour of America’s Dairyland during the absence of the events due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Hill continued, “With those statistics in mind, we knew we had an opportunity to enhance the image of our sport and all of the amazing people and stories that surround it, so we wanted to continue to move forward.”
Bruce Dunn, the race director of the Joe Martin Stage Race is excited about the prospects of a virtual event to complement the 42-year-old Arkansas-based bike race.
“The Joe Martin Stage Race was honored to be included in the initial virtual race series and see great value in having both an e-racing along with the live in-person race. The Echelon Virtual Racing league will allow the JMSR to continue to expand and promote our brand, Fayetteville, Arkansas and our sponsors,” Dunn said.
Echelon Racing Promotions is working directly with its in-real-life race promoter partners to offer community fondo rides to support the Project Echelon veterans non-profit and additional charities of their choice.