Andries Nigrini, Luke Bushell and Kieran McKenna, all students at the University of Pretoria, won third, fifth and sixth place in the recent 2020 FISU Virtual World University Cycling Cup. The tournament was held on 24 June, while the cyclists completed a distance of 55,5 km with an elevation gain of 1000m on the same track used for the 2018 World Cup in Innsbruck, Austria. The track offers more consistent gradient climbs as change compared to South African courses. All three cyclists told PDBY that the overall experience was quite exciting and a good compromise for FISU, although practically done on a trainer at the doorsteps of their homes.

Provided that the virtual experience differs from reality, where competitors’ facial expressions can’t be read and points of attack cannot be determined, they still enjoyed the overwhelming family and friends’ support from the side-lines. All three cyclists were happy to inform PDBY that the excitement on the virtual starting line was still very real and universally felt. Platforms like Zwift are rising to the forefront of global cycling, as in the United Kingdom’s existing e-race national championships. Nigrini stated that, “I do feel the real thing can’t be replicated. The sensation of conquering a hill and then looking back is something that can’t be displayed on a screen”.

Virtual cycling is a different style than non-virtual cycling with more intense monitoring of power output and tracking of pedal strokes and rhythm. In the long run, Bushell told PDBY, that cycling has taught him to push past mental barriers, to always push for the next goal and reach them through consistency. McKenna correspondingly added that cycling has extreme power on one’s mindset, which is necessary to get through tough situations in life, like in the current COVID-19 outbreak. A community worth joining is the biggest bonus to any sport. Generally speaking, chances for upcoming competitions are slim, but these TuksCyclists are not standing back in their attempt to reach new heights in the global arena of cycling – right in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their loved ones.


Illustration: Promise Zulu

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