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’ 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”.
“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, 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.”