The Zwift Academy is back for another year, with two pro contracts up for grabs as well as in-game kit rewards.
Last year, 35,000 men and women took part in the training programme, which rewards one female a pro contract with Canyon-SRAM and one man with a space on the U23 Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Continental Team.
Enrolment for the programme is now open, with the training sessions taking place between August 5 and September 29.
Riders will need to complete eight training sessions and four group rides or races to graduate, and for every 10 men who finish all the required sessions, Zwift will donate one Qhubeka bike to provide mobility in impoverished areas of Africa.
It's hoped that 10,000 men will graduate, leading to 1,000 potentially life changing bike donations.
Zwift wants the programme to be just as much about creating and encouraging a fitness seeking community as identifying pro-worthy talent, and there are rewards outside of a place in UCI WorldTour races.
When participants complete 25 per cent of the required sessions, they'll unlock a pair of in-game Zwift Academy socks. At 50 per cent they'll get matching shoes, followed by a cap at 75 per cent and full kit following graduation.
A Zwift Academy paintjob applied to a BMC SLR01 (for men) or a Canyon Ultimate (for women) is the reward for anyone who goes above and beyond, to complete an extra four social rides or races.
“Mass participation is a huge part of what Zwift Academy is,” comments Zwift Co-Founder and CEO, Eric Min.
“The Zwift Academy has been an incredibly successful tool for uncovering hidden talent, and I’ve enjoyed watching how previous winners and semi-finalists have progressed. However, for most of us, it's a fantastic opportunity to come together, train and share our experiences. Zwift Academy really brings our community together.”
The academy is now in its fourth year. Commenting on the talent that's been unearthed already, Canyon-SRAM sports director Ronny Lauke said: “It’s not always easy to discover emerging talent, but Zwift has allowed us to discover riders who might not have otherwise appeared on our radar. Previous winners, Tanja [Erath] and Leah [Thorvilson] both had successful sporting backgrounds in other spheres, so obviously hadn’t followed the traditional path to the pro peloton. Tanja has been proving herself on the World Tour Stage once again this year, recently winning the sprinters classification at Emakumeen Bira.”
Newest recruit to the Canyon-SRAM women's squad, Ella Harris, has been enjoying her first year as a pro. The 20-year-old from New Zealand said: “Zwift Academy has helped me realise my dream, and I’m living it right now.”
“I grew up in New Zealand where it’s incredibly hard to get noticed as we are so far removed from the professional scene - especially that in Europe. Typically I would have to travel long distances to races. However, Zwift allowed me to prove my ability on a global stage from the convenience of my home. It’s not been easy to adjust to a new life and the professional peloton, but I’m happy with my progress so far.”
All Zwift Academy riders will be able to enjoy premium access to the online training platform, Today's Plan, during the time the programme is running. This will allow them to see how they stack up against others in their age group, and against the overall competition.
Semi-finalists will receive a Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer, for the next phase of testing in the competition - the semi-finalists will be announced in early October.
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.
A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly.
When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.
She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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