The first-ever e-cycling team for prisoners is being launched

For those who think Zwift sessions are tantamount to a prison sentence, we'll now find out the truth once and for all

Zwift cyclists in Paris (Photo by Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty)
(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

Belgian prisoners are being offered the opportunity to join the first-ever e-racing team consisting solely of inmates.

Six people locked up in Oudenaarde prison will join 'The Breakaway' (opens in new tab) team and compete in black and white-striped jerseys against thousands of riders on the outside world on Zwift.

All members will remain anonymous, allowing them to be judged only on their performances on the bike. On Zwift they will all appear as 'John Doe' and numbered one to six, a name used by law enforcement to identify an anonymous person, so whether you're a fan of UAE Team Emirates' Brandon McNulty or The Wire's Jimmy McNulty, there is something for everyone.

It is hoped that the programme, sponsored by Decathlon, will help the prisoners to better themselves, proving that "sport is freedom, even when you're stuck between four walls".

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"Sport makes you feel happy. Makes you feel free. You stop thinking about these walls, I'm going all out," one of the prisoners says in a video promo.

All six cyclists will have their rides logged on Strava (opens in new tab), having already completed three in the first week of April.

"We stand for a human approach when it comes to how we treat our prisoners," says prison director Pieter Van Caeneghem. "We try to establish a regime based on mutual respect. Sport has evolved from a side issue to a fundamental part of that vision.

"It creates these beautiful moments that make us forget who is the prison and who is on the outside it is only the sport that matters. The division you usually see when it comes to prisoners and normal citizens disappears. Normal interactions become possible.

"I think the Breakaway will help our inmates catch up with the digital world."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.