Leah Thorvilson won the first-ever Zwift Academy in 2016, clinching a pro contract with CANYON//SRAM Racing. She shares valuable tips and insights for riders looking to follow in her footsteps. Registration for the 2019 Zwift Academy is now open. Sign up here.
Hey Zwift Academy family! I'm so excited to be jumping back into another season of Zwift Academy with all of you! Graduating from the Academy is a huge achievement in itself, but for those of you out there with your eyes on the pro contract, there is an entirely different level of intensity. This article covers the "must-dos" for riders going after the contract, as well as a few personal tips and tricks to help you on your way.
Here are all the things you need to have buttoned up to ensure eligibility to compete for the contract:
- For CANYON//SRAM Racing, you must be 18 years old by August 5, 2019. You can participate if you are younger, and build up strength and experience for future years, but you must be at least 18 to win.
- For Team Dimension Data U23, you must be at least 18 and no older than 21 on December 31, 2019.
- You must graduate from Zwift Academy. That means completing all 8 workouts and any combination of 4 group rides or races. There are NO exceptions to this rule, so plan accordingly with your coach or calendar to get all those sessions in, ideally with recovery time between each. Want to repeat a session for a better result? Go for it, but I recommend completing all required sessions first. You can then go back and repeat any workout.
- A smart trainer or power meter must be used for all qualifying events and workouts. This is to ensure that the data collected is a true and accurate reflection of your ability.
- A heart rate monitor must be used in all qualifying events and workouts as well.
- You must have a Today's Plan account connected to your Zwift account. The Zwift Academy coaches and decision-makers will be analyzing workout data through this platform. We understand some of you may use other platforms, but for Zwift Academy, you must also have Today's Plan to ensure consistency across all competitors.
- Your account is free for the duration of the Academy, and here’s some more info. The perks? Lots of interesting tools and charts to see how you stack up against your competition.
- You must have an accurate weight recorded in Zwift and Today's Plan. Weight should be recorded weekly to make sure results are consistently accurate.
- You cannot currently be riding, or have ridden for a Women's World Tour (UCI) professional team. Domestic elite and continental teams do not disqualify you from the competition. If you are unsure if this rule applies to you, please ask for clarification.
FINDING YOUR BALANCE
I really can't stress this enough, and it applies to everything about Zwift Academy. This contract you are going after is a HUGE deal. You should absolutely take it seriously, and make sure to plan for recovery to put your best foot forward in all sessions. Some riders can go all out too soon—make sure you space out your sessions to deliver the best results.
I also think it is super important to balance working on weaknesses and strengths equally. The need to work on weaknesses is for the obvious reason of improvement, but if you ONLY ever focus on the things you don't feel you are good at, it can be a real mental drain and spiral you into a place where you feel like "ugh! I suck!" ... but you don't. So don't forget to spend some days doing the things you kick ass at. It's so good for your mindset!
CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY
That said, don't forget to have FUN! Get active in the forums and the community Facebook page. Participate in the group rides. Get to know the other riders. You need to be social on occasion and put away the power meter and appreciate an easy ride.
I guarantee you will make lifelong friends here. Some will be your competition, some will be your fans and supporters, but all will be family. Embrace this.
MIX IT UP
This year you have a choice of your 4 activities to complete outside of the 8 workouts. You can do all 4 races, all 4 group rides, or a mix. I STRONGLY encourage you to try both types of events. While it is not a requirement, I think it is really important that you show the coaches that you are competitive and motivated by trying out a race.