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There will be another chance to earn a women’s professional cycling contract in your own home in 2017 as the unorthodox cycling talent identification program, the Zwift Academy, will be back and there is even the possibility that it could expand further by creating a virtual development team.
In 2016 Zwift and Canyon-SRAM offered riders the opportunity to secure themselves a much sought after professional women’s contract using Zwift. Zwift enables cyclists to virtually ride together in real time and compete on virtual copies of famous race courses from their lounge room, shed, verandah or wherever they have their trainer set up.
There were 1,200 participants in the program worldwide in 2016, three of which were picked to join the team on training camp. Former marathon runner American Leah Thorvilson earned herself a professional contract, joining the team in Adelaide this week to take the chance to get to know her teammates and watch on at the racing.
Registrations for the 2017 round of competition are expected to open in June and this year the Zwift Academy is hoping to triple the number of registrations to create a community of over 3,000 cyclists that will be asked to complete group rides, training rides and structured riding programs.
“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,” Canyon-SRAM rider Tiffany Cromwell said in a statement. “The best thing was that any female cyclist could take part and benefit, whether they were a newbie, an enthusiast or a racer. I’m looking forward to seeing this inclusive vibe go from strength to strength in 2017.”
Where the program will differ from last year is that eRacing will also be introduced to the semi-final phase. However, bigger changes could be in store for 2018, with talks underway between Zwift and Canyon-SRAM to start an eRacing team for the 2018 season, providing another opportunity for stand out riders to earn themselves a spot on the team.
Opportunities in women’s cycling are hard to come by, and even harder if you are away from a central cycling base.
“This is a natural progression for Zwift and Canyon-SRAM Racing,” said Eric Min, Zwift founder & CEO. “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.”