Ollie Jones, a former champion speed skater, fought off the competition from more than 9,000 other riders to land the deal with the under-23 Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad as part of the Zwift Academy programme.
Jones was one of three riders to attend the Dimension Data team training camp in South Africa, having completed a six-week training programme on Zwift, then fighting off 10 semi-finalists in a two-week programme of indoor and outdoor riding.
Together with the other three finalists, fellow Kiwi Sam Mobberley and Australian Nick White, Jones then went through a week of further challenges and riding with Dimension Data riders such as Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen, before being told that he had earned his pro deal.
“To say this is a dream come true is the understatement of the year,” Jones said.”It’s a life-changing experience and I still can’t believe it’s happening. Now I’m onto the next challenge of making the move to a now home in Lucca, Italy and doing everything I can to support my team-mates in the season ahead.”
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Jones is the second rider to land a professional contract through performances on Zwift, with American rider Leah Thorvilson having turned pro with Canyon-SRAM in 2017, and recently being rewarded with an extension to her contract.
Dimension Data team principal Douglas Rider said that he was pleased with his new recruit, and that the chance to have Jones attend a team training camp had proved that he had the all-round ability to succeed as a professional rider.
“Finding the next young talent is never easy, but Zwift’s reach and data collection opens our team up to the whole world,” Ryder said.
“Of course, there’s no substitute for the tactics, bike handling, and skills a rider needs in real-world racing, but these finalists presented us with the raw materials we need to find the next generation of world class talent.
“This isn’t a marketing gimmick; many of our riders are passionate about riding Zwift and they’ve seen first hand what a capable rider Ollie is. We’re super proud to have him on the team.”