Deceuninck-QuickStep have announced that Esport World Champion Jason Osborne will ride for the Belgian team as a stagiaire in the final part of the 2021 season.
Osborne was a surprise winner of the inaugural men’s race at the UCI Esports World Championships on the Zwift platform last December, using his power developed from cross training for rowing to surge away from the peloton on the final climb to the finish.
The 27-year-old from Mainz, Germany, recently won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the lightweight double sculls but was always keen to develop his professional road racing career after the Olympics.
“I always wanted to make the transition to cycling, but with rowing being there it wasn’t possible to commit 100 per cent to this. Now with the Olympics being over and it having been successful for me, I can focus on this,” Osborne said.
“For me, it means a lot to be a stagiaire here. To start with Deceuninck-QuickStep, the most successful team in the world, is the best opportunity I could get. They have shown that many great riders come out of the team and throughout the years they always did a great job in developing the riders who sported their jersey.”
“Cycling has always been part of my training ritual in rowing. I have done a lot of base training on the bike since 2012, when I bought my first road bike, then over the years I became more passionate about it, did some races, got into the competitive side of the sport and tried to develop.
“I like time trials, but also hilly courses where you need to deliver an explosive effort on short climbs, the type of which is kind of similar to what you need to do in rowing. I am aware there are a lot of things I need to learn, but I want to take it one step at a time and see what I can achieve.”
Deceuninck-QuickStep have still to confirm Osborne’s race programme but were impressed with his physical ability after lab testing.
“We have seen Jason’s physical attributes in his win at the Esports Worlds, and this was confirmed in the testing that we have done with him, head coach Koen Pelgrim said.
“We are curious how that will translate into racing. Moving into the pro peloton will be a process for him as he learns about the intricacies of the sport, as it would be for any young rider, and we will look to use our experience to help him with the transition.”
Osborne powered away from a group of 50 riders on the short climb to the finish of the Esports World Championships, putting out up to 12 Watts/kg, opening a two-second gap and then holding it thanks to a well-timed power-up in sight of the line.
The Danish duo of Anders Foldager and Nicklas Pedersen finished 1.74 and 2.09 seconds down on Osborne, respectively, while Canada’s Matteo Dal-Cin was the best pro road racer, coming in seventh place.
He beat some big-name WorldTour riders like Victor Campenaerts, Tom Pidcock, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Zwift star Lionel Vujasin of Belgium.
“When I saw the riders who were participating in the event, I saw some big names. I had a lot of respect for them, but of course there’s always competition between the Zwift pros and the WorldTour riders. They have the power while the Zwift pros know the algorithm and how it works,” Osborne after the race.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (South Africa) won the inaugural Esports World Championships in a thrilling two-up sprint to the finish line against Sarah Gigante (Australia). Moolman-Pasio currently rides for the SD Worx team.