Sequels have a lot to live up to: character dimension, bigger action, and originality. The second Zwift Academy that launched over the summer had the same expectations. The competition delivered strong results, drawing from a global talent pool to find the next women’s pro cyclist. Nearly 2,200 riders of all levels signed up for workouts, group rides, and competitive races. With a pro contract on the line, participants gave it their all. Over 552 made it to graduation, five times more than last year.
Beyond the physical conditioning that underpinned the 6-week program, a bigger payoff was the team bonding that arose off the bike. Women posted selfies after workouts. They shared the perils of the tough FTP test. Motivation and online support was instantaneous. Each of us Zwifted at home, but rode fearless together.
An evolved Zwift Academy program added races to the mix, attracting riders with different specialties. Power and diversity was apparent as the field narrowed from 10 semi-finalists to the top three. Siri Hildonen, from Norway, an active mother of two and lifelong endurance athlete. Tanja Erath, a skilled rider from Germany, who just completed her medical degree and kills it on crits. Last but not least, Bri Torkelson, from Seattle. She started with the least race experience, but came in with a ridiculous engine and full sleeve tattoos.
The three flew to Training Camp in Koblenz, Germany. Last year’s winner, Leah Thorvilson was also on site to greet them. Camp consisted of a fun mountain ride, races, leadout tests, go-karting, and cheering on as the three vied for top spot. Leah was the de facto mama bear, but ultimately, decisions came down to the riders’ performance and how well they meshed with the squad.
Meet the three in Episode 1. Nothing like a snowy MTB ride through the German woodland to start your day.
Episode 2 cranked up the drama with a Zwift race held at camp, with coaches and fans keeping watch.
Episode 3. Meet the winner of Zwift Academy 2017!
Thanks to all of you who participated, and brought it with every pedal stroke and encouraging post. Till next time.