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Canyon//SRAM Zwift Rider Leah Thorvilson Ready for First Race in Belgium

The Zwift academy rider will line up for Omloop van het Hageland this weekend

Canyon//SRAM’s newest edition Leah Thorvilson was recruited for the team via the online cycling platform Zwift and will line up for her first pro race this Sunday.

Thorvilson is a former elite level marathon runner, and took part in months of online training before spending ten days with the team to win her contract. Bunch bike racing will be newer to her than most, and her first race will be the UCI 1.1 Omloop van het Hageland in Tielt-Winge, Belgium. Last year, the race ended in a bunch sprint and Canyon//SRAM’s best placing was Tiffany Cromwell in tenth.

Ex-runner Leah Thorvilson got a pro contract via the Zwift academy

The 37-year-old will line up alongside Hannah Barnes, Lisa Brennauer, Barbara Guarischi, Mieke Kröger and Alexis Ryan for her first event in Canyon//SRAM colours.

American rider Thorvilson spent her time in Majorca riding with the German registered team, learning more about bunch racing and bike handling technique. She’s been in a fast track learning curve, and is clearly excited to put it all into practice.

Leah Thorvilson at the team training camp in Mallorca, Spain ©cyclingimages

Speaking ahead of her debut, Thorvilson said she’d been putting in a lot of work on building strength and coping with fast moving bunches – saying: “At the end of January I left my full-time job to focus all my energies on the 2017 season. Having the day time to get outdoors and spend many more hours on the roads has given me a lot more confidence in simple things you can’t experience on the trainer. I’ve put in the time building my strength as well as improving my comfort levels riding in faster bunches. I’ve done what I can do in these two months. Now the rest just comes with the experience itself.”

The new team addition has been working closely with Canyon//SRAM’s coach Andraes Lang – but knows the racing will be a new experience: “I know it will be different from anything I have done before, and I anticipate having to negotiate cobbles, wind, possibly rain, as well as a more aggressive field of riders than I have been in before. I want to come out of Sunday’s race with that “first one out of the way” feeling that should give me more confidence going into the next race. I will be able to assess what went well and what didn’t, what felt comfortable and what didn’t, and look to improve on it all.”

Commenting on lessons she’s learnt from her new team mates so far, she added: “I’ve been surprised with their ability to seamlessly adapt to any situation with racing. I expected there would be one or two key riders who the rest of the team was working for all the time but it doesn’t seem to be that way so far. They really flow well with setting up whomever is in the best position to be a contender on any given day, and they will each completely go to the well to help get her there. I’ve been continually impressed with their maturity.”

Speaking to us at the London Bike Show, team mate Hannah Barnes said: “You could tell [Leah] wasn’t as confident on a bike. There were days when Pauline [Ferrand-Prevot] was taking her down the descents, and telling her the best techniques. As we were riding along in a group, we were helping her to calm down and relax. She’s coming into one of the biggest races in the season…so she will have her work cut out but she seemed really motivated and ready to get stuck on. I think it’s really cool.”

Racing starts at 12:30 GMT and a live stream of the race will be shown by Motomedia from 13:00 local time with this link.

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