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What do boxer Anthony Joshua, speed skater Elise Christie, Olympic snowboarding bronze medallist Billy Morgan and F1 driver Niko Hulkenberg have in common? Writes Rachel Steinberg.
E-scooters. Yes, e-scooters.
This weekend, London’s Printworks will host the inaugural race of the eSkootr Championship (ESC), a six-race international series billing itself as “the world’s first micromobility racing series”, with ten teams of three athletes reaching speeds of over 100 km/h hoping to reach Sunday’s final through a series of heats.
Joshua and Hulkenberg are among those who have invested as team bosses, while the Olympians are set to race in the sport’s debut, joining two-time British Women’s Motocross champion Chelsea Gowland, who said the novelty of the event is what drew her to the series.
“We’re all from different backgrounds and this is a brand-new sport,” said the Mancunian.
“Obviously you see the scooters in the city centres and stuff like that, but we’ve never seen them race before.
“So for me personally that’s what really intrigued me, and also just competing against people from different sporting backgrounds that you’d normally wouldn’t bump into.
“You’re basically picking out a load of people from different sports and putting us all together.”
These aren’t your average e-scooters. The 30 racers taking to the 600 metre London track will be riding the S1-X, a twin-motor, 40kg custom-designed “race machine” with “F1 style tech” that can reach speeds of over 100km/h.
— eSkootr Championship ⚡🛴 (@eSC_LIVE) May 13, 2022
Race weekend, a “racing and lifestyle experience” will see events spread across both Saturday and Sunday, including a concert featuring Lady Leshurr as well as an invite-only, policy-focused New Mobility Forum, the series’ ultimate mission to advocate for sustainable transport and micromobility.
Like its most obvious comparison, the all-electric, awareness-raising rally series Extreme E, now in its second season, the eSkootr Championship bills itself as gender neutral, with at least one male and one female athlete on each team.
But the odd number, three, makes it relatively unique, even amongst other mixed team sports like the popular Olympic mixed triathlon relay, which featured teams of two men and two women.
There are no such restrictions in the ESC. British 2014 BMX world bronze medallist Tre Whyte, brother of Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Kye, is one of two men on a team with Italian SuperSport 300 rider Roberta Ponziani, while Gowland’s PLYR:1 team includes YouTube daredevil Antoine Magalhaes and multi-snowsport and freestyle scooter athlete Matis Neyroud.
Three of the ten teams, however, boast two women, while just one has three men.
“Most sports you get to a certain age and you normally separate the men and the women,” said Gowland. “But that’s what I love about ESC, even though it’s men and women together it’s a pretty fair playing ground. It’s very equal.
“It might actually be the guy who is the weakest out of the three. You never really know. A lot of people expect all the guys to be faster than the women, but they’ve made it really fair and obviously that’s good for the viewers to see as well.
“A sport at this level, a world championship, you don’t really tend to get men and women competing together at such a high level.”
Then there’s the question of how one even trains for a brand new sport. Gowland had never been on a scooter before, but reckons her motocross background allowed her to take to it pretty quickly during four days of testing in Malaga last month following an earlier selection week.
And with riders racing in a slightly bent position, lately every day for Gowland is leg day.
Ultimately, though, no one really knows what the weekend might bring – all teams can rely on is whatever transferrable skills from their wildly different backgrounds they think might befit an e-scooter championship, a bit of guessing, and a lot of curiosity.
“I’m just being very open minded,” added Gowland. “It’s hard to judge it. We all have different views, different ways of doing things.
“It’s brand new to us. So, no one has an advantage over the other person.”