This week marked the launch of the 2017 Zwift Academy in a continued partnership with the CANYON//SRAM Racing team.
Last year's inaugural event saw hundreds of women complete challenges online using the social fitness media platform, Zwift. After months of simulations, ride-outs and training, Leah Thorvilson was the lucky winner to earn a pro contract with Canyon//SRAM going into the 2017 season.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of the online fitness platform that is sweeping the cycling nation, Zwift claims to bring the outdoor experience indoors and encourage athletes from around the globe to train and compete with one another in 3D-generated worlds simply by connecting their smart trainers.
"The success of the first year showed that not only could we discover a world-class talent, but we could inspire a global community of female cyclists" - Ronny Lauke, CANYON//SRAM’s Team Manager
Canyon//SRAM rider, Hannah Barnes is fresh from the Women's Tour as we caught up with her to ask about her views on how the Zwift Academy works. Hannah explained that she considered the academy an interesting concept when she was first introduced to it. Barnes knows how hard it is to rise to pro level and whilst many assume it is a glamorous lifestyle that consists of travelling and riding bikes, she is convinced that Leah Thorvilson better understands the challenges that are associated with being a professional cyclist.
"It was interesting to see it [the academy] unfold" Barnes tells us, but there are some clear differences between the established riders and the new-comers "We were being asked things at the dinner table that for us was second nature" Barnes explained as she recalls the moment Thorvilson asked where her brakes were on the aero bars of her TT bike in February; "People say there is no such thing as a stupid question but..."
Cycling has grown significantly over the last 4 to 5 years and women’s cycling specifically, Barnes highlights and suggests that competitions and programmes such as the Zwift Academy are a great way for the sport to develop.
Could you be the next CANYON//SRAM team member?
It is no great secret that the Zwift Academy is modelled on the GT Academy which was provided by Playstation and Nissan to offer an alternative route into mainstream Motorsport.
The academy is open to all women who want to challenge themselves to be the best cyclist they can be. Unlike last year the academy is more condensed and sat right within the race season, "it fits into the schedule for a much bigger participation group" including elite athletes Eric Min, co-founder & CEO of Zwift explains.
“It is more than just a competition, the Zwift Academy also created a super friendly and motivated international women’s cycling community." - Leah Thorvilson, 2016 Zwift Academy winner
Zwift Academy 2017 Schedule:
- Registration: June 12 - September 1
- Qualification: September 1 - October 13
- Semi Finals: November 1 - 22
- Finals: December
Three 2017 Zwift Academy finalists will be invited to the CANYON//SRAM Racing team camp in Mallorca, Spain, in December of 2017, and the overall winner of the pro-contract will be announced shortly afterwards.
Registration is now open, so click here to find out more and sign yourself up. From there, the Zwift Academy will commence with a six-week Qualifying stage on September 1st, during which participants will be required to complete a series of group rides and structured workouts using Zwift.
So, what are you waiting for? Good luck!