I missed this when it dropped on 22nd January, and as best I recall, I don’t remember seeing it be picked up by any of the big cycling sites. That seems really odd – surely it was my mistake – but I read them like a hawk. Or at least, I thought I did.
Anyway, yeah, this year’s Zwift Academy finalists have been revealed. Now this is the Zwift Academy 2023, but the finalists have only just been announced in 2024. I guess that’s because the Zwift Academy ran later than usual last year.
Maybe you took part?
I did. It was … tough going. Particularly the earlier workouts.
Now, I’m not crazy enough to think I ever stood a chance of getting through to the finals. But this years batch are already Pro level it seems, which makes the competition seem even more unfairly stacked than usual (to me, at least).
Apparently over 108,000 people took part – which reveals quite a bit about Zwift’s subscriber numbers as much as anything.
The competition was for a spot on one of two professional teams.
For the men, this would be a spot with Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Development Team.
And the ladies were competing for a place with CANYON//SRAM Generation.
I’m pretty sure this is the same prize as last year, but last time around there were 5 finalists per gender, and this time around it’s down to just three. Budget cuts?
The Elite Six: Finalists Heading to Spain
From the masses, six standouts have pedalled their way to the finals:
- Katy Hill from Great Britain, a climber with triathlon roots and a competitive edge honed in 2022’s races.
- Laura Simenc of Slovenia, an all-rounder with a remarkable resume, including two UCI Gran Fondo World titles and a national sprint triathlon championship.
- Maude (Maddie) Le Roux from South Africa, a climber with a pedigree in UCI World Cycling Centre Continental Team competition and the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
Competing for a position with the men’s Alpecin-Deceuninck Development Team are:
- Mattia Gaffuri of Italy, a climber with a silver from the European Championships and experience in the U23 Giro d’Italia. A smile wouldn’t go amiss.
- Louis Kitzki from Germany, the youngest contender and a time-trial specialist with a competitive history across Europe and North Africa.
- Anton Schiffer, also from Germany, a climber with recent experience in the Tour of Turkey and Tour of Portugal.
From the press gumph, which is where I got this from, it’s unclear to me if Louis Kitzki is the youngest contender in the whole of Zwift Academy this year, or the youngest finalist. Surely it’s the latter, but as they don’t provide the ages – only their Zwift level – it’s hard to be sure.
If you haven’t yet watched it, I’d highly recommend the GCN coverage of last years Zwift Academy. It’s nice watching when on the bike.
The finals will see all riders complete a mix of tasks designed to test their cycling abilities, their racecraft and their communication skills. Some tests will pit the finalists head to head while others will encourage collaboration as they work with members of their prospective professional teams.
Team riders and staff of CANYON//SRAM and Alpecin-Deceuninck will be present at the camps in Spain.
The Zwift Academy Coaches at Dig Deep Coaching as well as the Team Coaches will be analysing all performances of the finalists from their outdoor efforts, their efforts in Zwift races, important bike handling challenges as well as analysing their culture fit within each team.
The finals will be broadcast by Eurosport, across 4 episodes on consecutive days with the first airing on 20 February 2024 at 19:30 CET.
The winners will be announced in the last episode that will broadcast on 23 February.