A 21-year-old from New Zealand has become the first male rider to earn a professional contract with his performances on Zwift after being given a deal with Dimension Data's development team.
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."
Watch: Garmin Edge 1030 unboxing
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."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Cyber Monday Gravel deals: savings on bikes, clothing, kit and more
The best prices for everything gravelicious this Cyber Monday
By James Shrubsall • Published
Cyber Monday mountain bike deals - we get gnarly to bring you the best off-road bargains
While we were looking for the best roadie deals we couldn't help noticing that there's a lot of mtb bikes and kit on sale too...
By Simon Smythe • Published
UCI reboots Zwift World Championships with punchy hills, elimination races and live streaming
2023 championships to consist of three key events: The Punch, The Climb and The Podium
By Tom Thewlis • Published
One Woman's Journey from Newbie Zwift Rider to Gravel Pro in Two Years
Thirty-three-year-old Physician's Assistant Paige Onweller won the 104-mile pro race at Big Sugar in October, just two years after starting to bike.
By Christopher Schwenker • Published