The Zwift Academy is the fastest way to become a professional cyclist
The competition in which thousands of cyclists race each year in Zwift for a pro contract with Canyon-SRAM and Alpecin-Deceuninck has unveiled the 2022 winners who will make their dream of pro cycling a reality as of January 1st, when they will officially join their respective squads.
The Zwift Academy 2022 already has winners
For the 7th consecutive year, two anonymous cyclists will see their dream of becoming professional cyclists come true. At least for one year, in the ranks of Canyon-SRAM for the women or sharing a team with Mathieu Van der Poel in Alpecin-Deceuninck, teams that have been collaborating with Zwift since the creation of this event.
In 2022 the best of the Zwift Academy has been the 25-year-old Italian Luca Vergallito of whom Kristof de Kegel, performance director of Alpecin-Deceuninck commented that "during the final week he has demonstrated that he has the mental and physical skills necessary to become a professional cyclist". On the women's side, the winner was 22-year-old British rider Alex Morrice, who only a few months ago graduated in physics and chemistry and was facing an uncertain job future that now takes an unforeseen turn in the script.
Road to stardom
The Zwift Academy offers a unique opportunity for two riders to reach the highest level of cycling on a different path. The usual format requires a long training process starting as a teenager, going through the different categories of the sport and fighting each season to be competitive enough to attract the attention of directors and scouts.
Perhaps the most talked about case is that of the winner of the 2020 edition Jay Vine, who after winning his place has proven to be a top cyclist with two victories in the last Vuelta a España. This role has led him to sign for next year for the almighty UAE-Team Emirates, where he will surely be one of the pillars in Tadej Pogacar's assault on the next edition of the Tour de France.
In the case of the women has not appeared such an outstanding rider, although there are names that have managed to consolidate in the professionalism, as the case of the German rider Tanja Erath, winner in 2017 and that after 3 seasons in Canyon-SRAM last year raced under the colors of TIBCO-SVB, structure in which she will continue this next year.
How to become a professional cyclist through the Zwift Academy
Looking ahead to 2023, any of you reading these lines can aspire to the jackpot that the Zwift Academy offers every season. To do so, you have to register for it on the Zwift website, an event that this year took place between September 25th and October 10th.
Between these dates, applicants must perform a series of activities, consisting of 6 structured training sessions on the platform, as well as two tests, one of aerobic capacity and the other of maximum intensity.
There are also several technical requirements to be eligible for selection, such as the use of a modern direct-mount turbo trainer capable of providing an accurate power reading; it is also mandatory to use a heart rate monitor belt during activities and to be at least 18 years of age. Cyclists who have been professionals in the past are excluded from this program.
After these tests, the data of the participants are carefully analyzed by the performance managers of the two teams, a huge task, as 160,000 cyclists took part in the Zwift Academy selection tests in 2022.
At the end, the finalists are chosen, 5 men and 5 women who have spent a week in the winter training camp that both Canyon-SRAM and Alpecin-Deceuninck have carried out during the month of December in Alicante. Training and living with the rest of the team as if they were just another cyclist, while they were carefully observed and tested during the different outings by the directors of both squads, who finally have the last word when it comes to electing the winners.
So you know, if you use to race in cycling and you think you have the qualities to be able to become proffesional, why not try next year at the Zwift Academy? Who knows, maybe you could be the next teammate of Mathieu Van der Poel or Kasia Niewiadoma.