Let us now chronicle the rise and sort-of fall of British YouTuber and now-former national e-cycling champion Cameron Jeffers. Unfortunately, the nouns in this story do not become that much easier to understand as we proceed, but please bear with me.
The story begins in March, when Jeffers won the first-ever British virtual racing national championship. The race was broadcast on BT Sport, and the live finals took place in front of a studio audience on the virtual cycling platform Zwift (Barry Bonds is a user). Zwift is a way to gamify the riding of a stationary bike, and the video below shows what Jeffers’s win looked like. Exciting, sure, but also, uh, different from outside road cycling. Please pay attention to the light-up tires on Jeffers’s bike, since they are at the crux of this saga.
Six months later, British Cycling informed Jeffers that he had been stripped of the title after the governing body discovered “manipulation of pre-race data to gain an unfair advantage.” It turns out that the result of said manipulation was the very bike that Jeffers rode to the title. Jeffers’s in-game character won the race on a Concept Z1, which is better known as the Tron bike, for obvious reasons.
A website called Zwift Insider tells us it is the fastest and also “definitely the coolest” bike in Zwift (Jeffers claimed later that there are faster bikes). It seems peculiar to me that an official cycling national championship race would allow competitors to ride different virtual bikes and start on a less-than-level playing field, but that’s probably why I am neither a cycling bureaucrat nor an esports champion.
Anyway, the Concept Z1 can only be unlocked by riders who have climbed 50,000 meters in the game, a process which my friends at Zwift Insider also tell me takes “months.” Jeffers did not go through the entire process of obtaining the virtual bike through legitimate means, as several of his competitors did, instead using a simulator to trick Zwift into thinking his character had climbed all 50,000 meters. The ANT+ simulator allows users to manipulate their power, weight, and other stats in the game, and Jeffers had his character ride at 2,000 watts up long climbs, which is a lot. This gave him access to the Concept Z1, a bike whose sole drawback is that it prevents your in-game character from properly crouching in an aerodynamic position when descending. Shout out Zwift Motherfucking Insider for teaching me so much today.
It’s worth noting here that Jeffers also races professionally on the road for Saint Piran, so he’s definitely got the talent to win an event like the 2019 British Cycling eRacing Championships on any bike. The impropriety that occurred was not significant enough that some yahoo waltzed in and won. I guess this is technically moto-doping, since a computer is a machine.
The decision came down in September, and British Cycling announced last Friday that Jeffers had been fined, suspended from all forms of racing for six months, and stripped of his title. Since Jeffers is a prolific YouTuber with 49.9k subscribers (as of publication) who tune in for cycling and travel videos with names like I’VE WAITED SO LONG TO TELL YOU THIS NEWS, I HAVE TO LEAVE AGAIN, WE MISSED THE BIKE RACE., WHAT IS THIS ON MY BIKE?!, WHEN WILL IT END, and RODE UP A HUGE HILL, to name a few, he released his version of the video that every YouTube creator will inevitably make someday: An apology video. It’s 15 minutes long, features a full length explanation of what went wrong, and it has radicalized me to Jeffers’s cause.
Shortly after he started racing on Zwift last December, an unnamed person approached Jeffers with an offer to help him get the Tron bike with the use of an ANT+ simulator. As he tells it, he wanted the Concept Z1 because “it looks cool.” British cycling actually performed a check-up on Jeffers’s gear before the finals, and he went into the championship race fully approved. He apologized for what he did, calling it “unethical and unsporting,” though he also noted that British Cycling also didn’t introduce its official e-racing regulations until March 2019, which was months after Jeffers obtained the Concept Z1 through allegedly nefarious means.
“Kinda moving forward, I’m not really sure what this means,” Jeffers said. “I kinda hope you guys took something from that and you can find it within yourselves to forgive me.” I can only speak for myself but I have forgiven Cameron Jeffers for the grave offense of letting some random person on a virtual cycling game improperly help him obtain a bike that looks like the motorcycles from 1982's Tron starring Jeff Bridges and Cindy Morgan, and then use that bike to win the first-ever British national championships of riding a fake bike on a computer. Hopefully you are a big enough person to do the same.