Whoever expected that our first Tour de France participation would be virtual? Anyway, it might be quite exciting, as we are racing against 22 other professional cycling teams on multiple new Zwift-maps (including the Mont Ventoux and the Champs-Élysées), and – most importantly – you can watch Israel Start-Up Nation live!

Volta ao Algarve 2020 – 66th Edition – 1st stage Portimao – Lagos 195,6 km – 19/02/2020 – Daniel Martin (IRL – Israel Start-Up Nation) – photo Nico Vereecken/PN/BettiniPhoto©2020

With a little bit of fantasy, this event is quite similar to the traditional Tour de France. Most of the WorldTour-teams participate, the leader’s jerseys made it to the virtual racing scene, and the races are broadcasted on the same platforms as you are used to. However, we race the vTdF on Elite indoor trainers, the six different stages are spread over three weekends and we race for a good cause.

Experience and debuts in ISN line-ups

ISN’s line-ups consist out of 15 riders with 9 different nationalities. Alex Dowsett participates in three stages, Dan Martin in the Mont Ventoux stage and the super-strong French sprinter Rudy Barbier is aiming for virtual success in the new, French maps of the game.

Tour for All (the previous Zwift racing event) winners James Piccoli and Freddy Ovett also appear more than once at the start line and Israeli participation is in nearly every stage too, with some Israel Cycling Academy-riders making their virtual WorldTour debuts (the line-ups are not confirmed yet).

Barbier prepares for Champs-Élysées

Barbier is particularly looking forward to sprinting in Paris, during the final stage of the vTdF. “It is good fun that Zwift has added French maps to the game, and I am looking forward to testing them”, he says. “Of course: especially the last stage, on the Champs-Élysées, might be special. I hope to sprint for the victory in the virtual city center of Paris.”

Dowsett, who joined the real Tour de France twice in his career, will mainly join the more flat stages during the virtual competition. The British time trial specialist thinks the game is a good substitute for what should have been a great month of racing. “The races will be approximately one hour in length”, he says. “That is perfect, because in that way it keeps interesting for the riders and the spectators watching television. I can imagine that most of the people watching would otherwise have watched the real spectacle every day. I hope this will be as exciting for them.”

He showed his eRacing skills during the Tour for All and now makes his appearance again on the gaming platform: Yuval Ben Moshe. “Racing for a good cause, with the WorldTour-team, in maps that are specifically designed for this event is great. It is a nice opportunity for me to compare my fitness with WorldTour-riders, even though eRacing is incomparable with racing on the road. I hope to get ISN points for the GC and show a strong sprint in the first stage.”

The stages:

Saturday 4th July, Stage 1: Nice, 36.4 km.

Sunday 5th July, Stage 2: Nice, 29.5 km.

Saturday 11th July, Stage 3: North-East France, 48 km.

Sunday 12th July, Stage 4: South-West France, 45.8 km.

Saturday 18th July, Stage 5: Mont Ventoux, 22.9 km.

Sunday 19th July, Stage 6: Paris Champs-Elysées, 42.8 km.

Where to watch:

The vTdF will be broadcast to over 130 countries, with broadcasts taking place every Saturday and Sunday, July 4-19, from 3pm-5pm CET (9am-11am EDT/6am-8am PDT).