Every year, a little whiff of excitement goes through the women’s cycling community at the announcement of Zwift Academy. What started in 2016 as an experiment to provide a new channel for identifying pro racers outside the more traditional funnels has become much more than that. Zwift Academy has developed into a true community event that is driving growth and engagement in women’s cycling overall. Today, Zwift Academy is available for men’s and women’s road cycling, triathlon, and running.
What is Zwift Academy?
Zwift Academy is an 8-week training and racing program. The overall winner of the program takes away a slot on the pro women’s team Canyon//SRAM. In order to graduate, participants have to complete a series of eight workouts testing a variety of power numbers and four group rides (social rides, segment rides, or races) during this period of time.
Why do the Academy?
Many women, regardless of their level of competitiveness or skill, take part in the Academy – and return each year. While we may all enjoy riding and training on Zwift, the question arises: Why do they put themselves through challenging – and at times gruesome – intervals?
A Pro Contract on the Horizon
Naturally, one major driver for completing the Zwift Academy is the coveted spot on a UCI World Tour team. For young US racer Charlotte Backus, who is an elite racer both on the road and on Zwift, “getting the gold (Finals) this time round” is the main goal. While this competitive cyclist has her eyes set on the pro contract, she also feels strongly about the community Zwift Academy creates and strengthens each year. “Zwift Academy is so special for getting more people on bikes and creating a great community. I love the social aspect of everyone inspiring each other to push to their limits.”
Fun & Friendly Competition in Times of Adversity
Multisport athlete Sue Lin Holt is a first-time participant in 2020. Zwift has kept her sane and on the bike during the COVID-19 pandemic and when air quality issues made it too dangerous to ride outside. “I am participating to improve fitness, be part of an awesome community of female cyclists, enjoy some friendly competition, and above all, have fun.”
Canadian cyclist Jenna Dutton has always been fairly athletic, playing hockey, weight lifting, and hiking. She found cycling later in life and now rides bikes almost every day for transportation or recreation purposes. Zwift came to her as a way to cycle through the harsh Canadian winters. “2020 will now be my 4th time participating in Zwift Academy. I’ve learned that I’m always stronger than I think and it helps to have the community support to see others pushing themselves also.”
Empowering Community & Challenging Competition
Women often face a lack of competition and community in their IRL environments. Zwift Academy offers a way for women to test their limits, push their boundaries, and race large and global fields based on their skill level. It also offers a peek into structured training for newbies – served with invaluable advice from both the experienced coaches as well as the active community in Zwift and beyond on social media.
If you haven’t signed up for the Academy yet, you can still register. The women’s road Zwift Academy runs through November 25.