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Zwift has announced the latest amateur rider to receive a pro contract via its Academy programme as 19-year-old Martin Lavrič.
The Slovenian rode for continental outfit Attaque Team Gusto through 2017, and entered the competition with hopes of reaching the semi-final and securing himself the Elite smart turbo trainer prize.
Instead, he joined two other finalists at the Team Dimension Data end of season training camp in Cape Town, South Africa - before being selected as the winner.
Lavrič fought off competition from around 30,000 Zwift Academy participants to win a place on the U23 Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad.
He called the opportunity "a dream come true."
“I entered Zwift Academy with an eye on a semi-final place, as I wanted to win an Elite smart trainer, but I walked away with a pro contract," he said.
"I have experience racing at a UCI continental level, but this was a huge opportunity for me to get noticed by a top professional cycling team. It will be a huge change, but I’m really relishing the opportunity.”
The other two finalists to join Lavrič in Cape Town were Alex West from New Zealand and Ollie Peckover of Great Britain.
The young rider receives a year long contract, and is the second ever winner of the Men's Zwift Academy Programme, which came to be after the success of the women's version which feeds successful riders to Canyon-SRAM racing team.
Riders took part in a series of workouts, followed by Zwift races before the finalists were invited for scrutiny offline.
“Having spent some time with the riders here in Cape Town, We’re really confident in Martin," said Elliot Lipski, Coach to Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka.
"He showed real instinct out on the road, and the other riders took to him well. He’s got a great program with us at Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and a direct route into the World Tour if he proves himself. Now is just the beginning.”
Senior team rider and avid Zwifter, Edvald Boasson Hagen commented: “A few of the senior riders live in Tuscany, where the U23 team are based and I’m sure they’ll keep a watchful eye on Martin.”
Eric Min, Zwift Co-Founder and CEO said: “This year’s Zwift Academy has been a step up again... I’d like to offer my congratulations to Martin. I’m really excited to see how he performs next year - we’ll be behind him all the way!”
The 2018 Zwift Academy, along with the Ride for Qhubeka challenge which took place during the week of the training camp, saw 850 bikes donated to Qhubeka, which will be distributed throughout South Africa in order to bring people in rural communities closer to healthcare, jobs, and education.
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