I was able to catch up with the Women’s winner of the 2017 Zwift Academy, Tanja Erath. Enjoy!

Rory: First question… Where do you call home?

Tanja: Right now I live in Dortmund. In the so called “Ruhrgebiet”. I moved here for studying medicine. Originally I’m from the south of Germany, a small village close to Stuttgart.

Rory: Give us a background into your athlete background starting from when you began doing sports?

Tanja: I tried a few sports as a child like gymnastics, table tennis, athletics… When I was 11 years old I started to do triathlon and stuck there. I raced triathlons for about 15 years and started to switch more and more to cycling in 2016. Since 2017 I do cycling “only” and raced a lot of road and fixed gear races.

Rory: Being an Ironman Triathlete myself I was super excited to see a triathlete win the Zwift Academy. How has your triathlon background helped you to win?

Tanja: Well, as I used to be a triathlete for most of my “sportslife” I guess my shape and my cycling performance mainly depends on my training as a triathlete. Through the crit racing this season I added sprint qualities onto my endurance abilities. I guess that made me quite a good all-rounder in the ZA.

Rory: When did you start riding Zwift and when did you decide that you wanted to compete in the 2017 Zwift Academy?

Tanja: I started Zwift only a few months before the Academy and only did around 3 rides. I never had an indoor trainer, so I had to borrow one from a friend especially for the ZA. I decided to compete in the ZA 2017, when I heard about the ZA 2016. When I heard about it in 2016 it was already too late to enroll, so I decided to compete in 2017.

Rory: How was competing in the finals with Siri Hildonen and Bri Torkelson? How was competing in the Zwift academy? Was it what you expected?

Tanja: In the finals it didn’t really feel like competing against each other. I think we were very supportive with each other. I shared my room with Bri and we talked a lot about what’s happening and what we think and feel. It was great to have these girls around you understanding your fears and your hopes. It was the same with having Leah there. She was so great and supportive all the time.

Finalists Tanja Erath, Bri Torkelson, and Siri Hildonen (left to right)

Rory: Going into the finals what were your feelings? Were you surprised you made it?

Tanja: Going into the finals and being in the training camp feels so unreal until you are there and get to know the girls and realize that this is really happening.

I felt really good in the training camp. The MTB rides went well for me and so did the Zwift race and the tactical lead out-challenge we did. Plus I got along with the girls and the whole team very well. But till the end you don´t know what they are really looking for and what is kind of their measurement. And Bri and Siri are such powerful riders with awesome personalities, so till the end I was very uncertain about the outcome.

Germany training camp

Rory: After hearing your name as the winner what was your first thought?

Tanja: I’m not sure if I thought anything in that moment. I looked at Kate (from Zwift) standing next to me and at the girls and I just felt like I need to hug somebody.

Rory: What’s your indoor trainer of choice?

Tanja: I can´t really compare but I really love my Wahoo Kickr. It´s noiseless and smooth and easy to handle plus I like the look and I think that’s quite important for something you have set up in your room.

Rory: Tell the future Zwift Academy women the one piece of advice you wish you would’ve known.

Tanja: Don´t think too much about the stars (the ones you earn throughout a workout) and about what your numbers are. Just enjoy the program since it’s a great way to push yourself to the limit and to gain more fitness and self-confidence on the bike.

Watch Zwift’s final video of the three Academy finalists, and the announcement of the winner:

Germany training camp

About the Academy

If you don’t know much about the Zwift Academy it’s a 6-week training program on Zwift designed by top coaches and open to everyone globally. Graduates of the women’s academy get an exclusive in-game jersey, real world prizes, and a shot at a pro contract with CANYON//SRAM Racing. To graduate this year you needed to complete 5 group rides with the Zwift Academy community, complete the Zwift Academy training program in Zwift., and complete 2 races on Zwift.