Into the final 10 from a global Zwift sift
Almost 10,000 male riders from around the world joined an initiative that may result in a pro team contract. Zwift and Team Dimension Data have whittled that selection down to 10… and RIDE contributor, Harrison Bailey*, is amongst that selection.
Auditioning for the Dimension Data Zwift Academy
– By Harrison Bailey
I was quite surprised a few months ago to stumble upon a media release offering the chance to earn a contract with Dimension Data’s U23 Continental Team, the feeder team of the WorldTour set up. The whole idea and competition is based on the ever growing online riding and training platform Zwift which, in conjunction with Trainsharp and Dimension Data, designed a six-week training program to unearth a rider worthy of donning a Dimension Data jersey.
It’s not often that an opportunity as grand as this arises, where a development pathway to the top of the sport is clearly visible.
Being an Australian rider, historically the pathway to the WorldTour has been through the Mitchelton–Scott team or, previously, the so-called ‘World Tour Academy’ that was part of the road program of Cycling Australia and the AIS. This has only been available to a minority of riders coming through the under-23 ranks, but there is no denying the worthiness of that minority as several riders have progressed to the WorldTour in recent years.
With many programs that operate in a similar manner to Mitchelton-Scott, there are numerous talented riders who have the potential to compete in WorldTour level races but simply have not had the pathway to do so.
The Zwift Academy has been created with those riders in mind, those who – for some reason or another – may have slipped through the cracks, or are perhaps new to the sport and bursting with talent.
For that reason I became interested in competing in the academy.
Harrison (closest to camera) was given the task of chaperoning Chris Froome during the inaugural edition of L’Etape Australia (above).
My confidence grew after the initial workout, a 20 minute Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test.
I believed I set a pretty good benchmark for myself, which would put me in a strong position to progress to the next stages of the competition.
I cannot say I was an avid user of Zwift prior to my ‘audition’ for the academy, having only tried it once or twice beforehand. But for several weeks I knew the smart trainer would become my primary method of training.
Gone are the days of setting up the bike and staring at the mundanity of a brick wall for hours on end. That was something I became familiar with during my junior cycling days, and thus, the ergo became something I dreaded.
Today, however, I now associate the ergo with a laptop screen or a TV (as most people do), staring at my Zwift alter ego – and the alter ego’s of thousands of others who are also in their garages or living rooms, riding their bikes… just like myself.
I have found that Zwift has made the act of riding indoors much more engaging and interactive. (And Harrison is not alone, as Graham Springett explained earlier this week.) Not only does the program provide the stimulus of riding real courses but it also opens up a range of other inclusions like joining in bunches – or conversations – with complete strangers on the Zwift virtual group rides.
Through the weeks of the competition I steadily completed all the prescribed rides from the academy. Around the halfway point I received a notification that I had a standout performance in the FTP test and that I was shortlisted for the semi-finals. But by no means did this guarantee me one of the 10 positions on offer in the semi-finals.
What it did do, was spark an even greater desire to complete the academy’s program and put myself in the best position possible to make the selection.
Following the completion of the Zwift academy, a few anxious but hopeful days followed. I continuously checked my emails to see if anything had come through, and plenty a time I was left disappointed when the vibration in my pocket was not the invite to the finals from Zwift.
It was an anxious wait… but one that yielded the call I’d been anticipating.
The invite for the semi-finals eventually came through and this news filled me with a sense of elation.
I gladly accepted the offer from Tom Hargreaves, the marketing manager at Zwift. Over the next few weeks I’ll be striving to reach the final, at this point I’m unaware of the specifics of the semi-finals; regardless, I’ll be doing what I can to progress to the training camp with the team in Cape Town, South Africa, and ultimately the contract with Dimension Data’s Continental line-up. But, for what it’s worth, I’m proud to have made it this far into the competition – I’ve gained invaluable experience and confidence.
– By Harrison Bailey
*Harrison is one of the few work experience candidates who has spent time in the RIDE office. He has since written a column for the magazine about riding as Chris Froome’s chaperone during the inaugural edition of L’Etape Australia. We wish him all the best in the Zwift Academy semi-finals.
In addition to the 10 men who made the cut for the Dimension Data Continental team, there are 10 women – from a total of over 2,100 – who made the cut for an equivalent position with the Canyon-SRAM Racing team.
Zwift Academy Semi Finalists
The remaining 10 Team Dimension Data riders (in alphabetical order)
- Harrison Bailey, 21, (AUS)
- Ryan Christenson, 21, (NZL)
- Jake Cullen, 21, (CAN)
- Luke Derksen, 21, (GER)
- Greg de Vink, 19, (RSA).
- Ollie Jones, 21, (NZL)
- Sam Mobberley, 21, (NZL)
- Byron Munton, 18, (RSA)
- Ollie Peckover, 19, (GBR)
- Nick White, 20, (AUS)
The remaining 10 Canyon-SRAM riders
- Tanja Erath, 28 (GER)
- Chloe Fraser, 24 (UK)
- Siri Hildonen, 46, (NOR)
- Helen McKay, 39, (GBR)
- Sarah Portella, 34, (USA)
- Ruth Summerford, 27, (GBR)
- Brianna Torkelson, 29, (USA)
- Christie Tracy, 38, (USA)
- Rosie Wayland, 28, (GBR)
- Hayley Wickstrom, 27, (USA)