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The Zwift Academy women’s talent ID program is back in 2017 and will give amateur racers another shot at a UCI Women’s WorldTour pro contract with Canyon – SRAM. The six-month virtual tryout drew nearly 1,100 participants last year with Leah Thorvilson, a former elite runner, taking the spot and joining the Canyon – SRAM team for the 2017 season.
“Zwift has shown itself as a credible talent identification platform and the 2016 Zwift Academy proved that Canyon – SRAM Racing was committed to adding a new dimension to women’s cycling in their very first season”, says Ronny Lauke, Canyon – SRAM team manager. “Our year two program will build on what we achieved in 2016 by delivering new angles to boost registrations and benefits for all participants.”
Registration for this year’s Zwift Academy is expected to open in June, with the qualification phase starting in September. In keeping with the 2016 program, participants will be asked to complete a range of group rides, training rides, and structured training programs. The biggest change for 2017 will be the introduction of “eRacing” to the semi-final stage in November.
“eSport is coming to cycling and Zwift is leading the charge. Introducing a racing component to Zwift Academy provides the judges with another important evaluation component,” offered Eric Min, Zwift founder and CEO. “Zwift Academy racing will be an ideal testing ground for measuring and gauging new talent in a fair, effective, competitive environment.”
Min also revealed Zwift is in talks to establish a Canyon – SRAM eRacing development team for the 2018 season. “This is a natural progression for Zwift and Canyon – SRAM Racing. This new and unique project will ease many of the budget constraints in women’s cycling by allowing rider talent to be developed online, in many geographies, and within a team structure.”
Zwift and Canyon – SRAM hope to more than triple the number of participants in the Academy this year and continue to build the largest community of female cyclists. “In 2016 the Zwift Academy brought together a global community of female cyclists who supported and encouraged each other regardless of ability level or experience on the bike,” says Tiffany Cromwell, a Canyon – SRAM rider. “The best thing was that any female cyclist could take part and benefit, whether they were a newbie, an enthusiast or a racer.”