Zwift has announced the twenty riders who have made it to the semi-finals of the annual Academy, taking them one step further to a pro contract with Team Dimension Data’s Under 23 men’s squad or the Canyon-SRAM women’s team.
After over 86,000 hours of indoor pedalling on the platform, ten men and ten women will move onto the next round of the competition – including Ireland’s Imogen Cotter and Ione Johnson, a New Zealander occasionally based in the UK.
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Women’s participation saw a massive 80 per cent increase this year, with close to 9,000 female riders putting themselves up for the challenge which has already seen three riders gain a contract and race WorldTour events with Canyon-SRAM.
In total, 68,603 people took part in the first stage, which included a structured programme of group rides, races and workouts over an eight week period.
The successful candidates begin the next part of their journey on Tuesday October 15, taking on a mix of indoor workouts on Tacx Neo II Smart trainers, as well as outdoor sessions.
Following a further whittling down, six finalists will join their respective potential teams for training camps, where the winners will be chosen.
The journey isn’t over for those not seeking a pro contract, all Zwift users will be able to follow the workouts of the semi-finalists, with the sessions becoming available from Tuesday.
Women’s winner in 2018, Ella Harris, joined 2017 victor Tanja Erath at the German registered outfit this year. The 21-year-old from New Zealand enjoyed a fourth place on GC at the Colorado Classic in her fledgling pro season.
Commenting on the journey, she said: “If I think back to last year, signing up for the Zwift Academy and never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d actually win the thing.”
“The highlight for me has been getting more confident within the team and within races, and being able to experience and do so many races that wouldn’t have been possible this time last year. It will be exciting to see the talent coming out of this year’s academy, I wish them all good luck!”
All ten female riders this year come from elite sporting backgrounds. Johnson, who raced some UK events for Team OnForm, looks to improve on her fifth place last year, whilst Cotter is a former runner who found cycling after signing up to Cycling Ireland’s ‘talent transfer’ program.
Olivia Baril earned herself the title of U23 Canadian national champion in both the time trial and road race this year and Catherine Colyn was the U23 South African road race national champion in 2018.
The ten men who have made it to the next stage fought their way through around 60,000 competitors.
Martin Lavrič, winner of the 2018 Zwift Academy said: “The Zwift Academy is a great experience and an opportunity to test yourself.
“Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka U23 runs a really great program of races for a Continental Team allowing you to compete with the best young riders across Europe. Not only is this a great team to be a part of, but it’s also a great team to represent. Qhubeka strives to improve transportation in South Africa by supplying bikes to communities. This year Zwifters taking part in Zwift Academy have helped raise 749 bikes for the charity so far.”
The ten riders have found themselves in an elite group: Kees Duvyesteyn came 2nd in the New Zealand National Road Race 2019, while Brad Gouveris won the Zwift Super League Grand Finale this year and Drake Deuel is an elite level rower.
The 10 CANYON-SRAM Racing Zwift Academy Semi-Finalists are:
Olivia Baril, Canada
Catherine Colyn, South Africa
Imogen Cotter, Ireland
Nathalie Eklund, Sweden
Veronica Ewers, United States of America
Emily Gass, United States of America
Ione Johnson, New Zealand
Mary Kate McCarthy, New Zealand
Jessica Pratt, Australia
Samara Sheppard, New Zealand
The 10 Team Dimension Data Zwift Academy Semi-Finalists are:
Drew Christensen, New Zealand
Drake Deuel, United States of America
Kees Duyvesteyn, New Zealand
Brad Gouveris, South Africa
Filip Kvasina, Croatia
Mathijs Loman, The Netherlands
Campbell Pithie, New Zealand
Rhy Robotham, Australia
Ryan Rudderham, Canada
Luuk van Gestel, The Netherlands