All About Zwift Academy Road 2021

All About Zwift Academy Road 2021

Registration is now live for Zwift Academy Road 2021 (sign up here)! We asked Zwift Senior Content Manager Kate Veronneau (an avid cyclist and senior member of Zwift’s team) to give us her take on what makes Zwift Academy (ZA) special. In particular, we wanted to get her perspective on ZA’s evolution and what’s most exciting about this year’s program.

Here’s what Kate had to say, along with complete details on ZA Road 2021.

Intro to Zwift Academy Road

For those unfamiliar, Zwift Academy is an annual event that serves two purposes. First, it’s a global training program for cyclists of all levels. Secondly, it’s a worldwide talent ID competition which has placed multiple riders onto WorldTour teams.

A Bit of ZA History

Zwift Academy winner announced
Image from the first-ever Zwift Academy in 2016

When it all began in 2016, the community that developed from the program (which was for women only) was an unexpected surprise. Kate says, “I love thinking back to that first year, in 2016, when we set out with CANYON//SRAM to host a worldwide talent ID competition to find the next pro. We inadvertently did something bigger… we formed the first real global women’s training community! So many friends were made in that first group of 1100 riders. It’s the foundation for the incredible community of women on Zwift.”

Zwift leaned into the community aspect of ZA after that first year, launching an Academy for the men as well in 2017 and making the program more accessible to all comers. Additionally, Zwift launched academies for tri and run, giving all Zwift athletes an academy they could embrace.

Participation has increased each year, and Kate told us, “We expect over 400,000 participants this year.” Wow!

While ZA itself has become more and more inclusive over the years, the talent ID side of things has only become more competitive as the pool of pro contenders grows. Who would have guessed 20 years ago that WorldTour pros would get their start by being discovered via an indoor training platform? “Can you imagine being invited to an NBA talent ID camp?” Kate says, “Last year’s ZA Road participants were all training with 2 future WorldTour riders, one that is currently racing the Vuelta (Jay Vine). This program is so unique and exciting in the world of sport.”

New for 2021

Each year ZA evolves to improve on its dual goals of building an inclusive training community and spotting talented pro contenders. Here’s what’s new for ZA Road in 2021:

Combined Road Programs

In past years, the men’s and women’s ZA Road programs have been separate. This year they are combined, although there will still be one woman and one man chosen as the overall winners.

For those women who prefer to hang with the ladies rather than with a mixed group, Road events will still offer a women’s only category.

Orientation Workouts

These nonrequired events are designed especially for new Zwifters and/or first-time Academy participants. Kate describes them as, “A light, 26 min workout that walks you through the details of this year’s program.” Orientation workouts will be on the schedule starting August 18th as a group workout, but also available (along with all Zwift Academy workouts) in the 2021 Zwift Academy Road folder in the workout menu to be done on-demand.

Baseline + Finish Line “Progress Rides” – on New Routes!

Understanding your progress over time is a key aspect of training effectively. It also inspires us to greater fitness!

The ZA Road program will begin and end with special benchmarking events which test your power over three different in-game segments (short, medium, and long duration) so you can set your baseline numbers at the start, then see progress after completing the Academy.

Kate explains, “Instead of starting with a workout, you’ll start with a group ride on a new route with 3 known Zwift segments. In this Baseline group ride, you’ll ride easy, then blast the segments to set your base fitness: a sprint, medium climb, and climb (Volcano or Epic KOM). I think we all go faster when we have riders to chase!”

Baseline and Finish Line rides will take place on brand-new event-only Watopia routes, called “Climber’s Gambit” and “Legends and Lava”. These events will have four categories to choose from:

  • A: advanced course (“Climber’s Gambit”) – open to all
  • B: advanced course (“Climber’s Gambit”) – women only
  • C: standard course (“Legends and Lava”) – open to all
  • D: standard course (“Legends and Lava”) – women only

Legends and Lava begins in Fuego Flats and includes the Titans Grove Reverse KOM, Sprint Forward, and Volcano KOM as benchmarking segments. Climber’s Gambit starts on Watopia Pier and includes Sprint Reverse, Titans Grove Reverse KOM, and the Epic KOM Reverse.

You’ll want to choose your category carefully! Whatever one you do for your Baseline is what you should also do for your Finish Line ride to get the best view of your progress.

Baseline rides will be scheduled on Zwift’s calendar from August 30-September 27, while Finish Line rides will be scheduled from September 27-October 24th. Both events will be scheduled every other hour during their respective time periods.

For more info on Baseline and Finish Line rides, see the Zwift Academy Baseline Ride FAQ and First Look: Completing a Zwift Academy Baseline Ride.

Two Workout Blocks

The eight weeks of Zwift Academy training will be divided into two four-week blocks, like many traditional training programs. The first block is VO2-focused, while the second block is more threshold (FTP) focused. Each block contains three workouts and a social/recovery ride.

Block 1

Block 2

In addition to the three workouts + recovery ride in each block, you are expected to include a Baseline ride in your first workout block (ideally at the very beginning), and a Finish Line ride in your second workout block (ideally at the very end).

Progress Tracking in Companion App

New features in Zwift’s Companion app will let you track your overall Academy progress, as well as stats on your PRs for the short, medium, and long-duration efforts for the Baseline and Finish Line rides.

Key Dates/Schedule

  • ZA Road online and in-game registration opens August 17 (online registration for ZA Run and ZA Tri also opens)
  • ZA Road orientation group workouts available August 18-29
  • ZA Road begins August 30
  • ZA Road Workout Block 1 August 30-September 19
  • ZA Road Workout Block 2 September 20-October 10
  • ZA Road registration closes September 25
  • Makeup Workouts October 11-October 24
  • ZA Road ends October 24
  • ZA Run program begins October 4 (in-game registration will open on 9/20)
  • ZA Tri program begins October 18 (In-game registration opens 10/4)

Graduation Requirements

To complete Zwift Academy Road 2021, participants must complete a total of 10 rides:

  • 1 Baseline Ride event
  • 6 Zwift Academy workouts (group workouts or individual, your choice)
  • 2 Zwift Academy recovery ride events
  • 1 Finish Line Ride event

Riders pursuing the pro contract will need to put in some extra work, as Kate explains: “We designed the pro pathway differently this year. Aspiring pros will do the main program, plus a TT up the Alpe and an additional ZA Road Pro Contender workout. This allows us to put them through a few extra paces without making the main program too intense. All riders are welcome to test themselves on the extra events, but they are only required for pro contenders.”

Unlocks

Riders will unlock new kit as they progress through the program:

  • 2 events: unlock ZA cap
  • 5 events: unlock ZA socks
  • 7 events: unlock ZA kit
  • 10 events: unlock purple paint job for Canyon Aeroad 2021 frame (you’ll need to buy the frame, though!)

Pro Contract Competition

This year’s “grand prizes” will be the same as ZA Road 2020: women will be vying for a 1-year pro contract with the CANYON//SRAM team, and men will be chasing a spot on the Alpecin-Fenix team. These competitions are open to all riders 18 years and older.

Along with completing the Pro Contender TT Race and Pro Contender Workout already noted above, riders vying for the contracts must also:

  • Wear a heart rate monitor
  • Be paired to the game with a smart trainer or power meter
  • Connect their account with Today’s Plan
  • Complete the ‘Advanced’ Baseline and Finish Line ride events

See all the details on competing for a pro contract >

What will the competition look like for the finalists this year? That’s all a bit up in the air, thanks to Covid-related challenges. Zwift tells us that the final competitions may or may not be done in person – they simply don’t know at this time. (Last year’s finals competitions were done from riders’ homes, but previous years saw finalists flown to team camps where the pro teams and coaches could see the finalists ride and evaluate them in person.)

Coaches

This year’s ZA Road coaches were first introduced last year. Stephen and Dan are experienced and strong bike racers, both indoors and out.

Stephen Gallagher

Stephen is a lifelong racer who’s represented Ireland at Worlds and European Championships. His goal is to give every rider a 360° view of their physiology and strengths. He designed ZA’s structured workouts as a journey – one that educates and asks you to exert hard efforts on the bike. See his ZwiftPower profile, or read his bio on DigDeepCoaching.com.

Dan Fleeman

Dan was born on a mountain bike, and his medal-winning history as a Brit racer speaks for itself. He used a rich knowledge of training, recovery, and structure to create a program that’s as tough as it is intelligent. Follow it and discover the building blocks to unlock your inner power. He races on Zwift with Saris + The Pros Closet – see his ZwiftPower profile, or read his bio on DigDeepCoaching.com.

Ready to Get Started?

Sign up in-game, or do it online at zwift.com/academy.

Looking Forward

“The sky’s the limit for Zwift Academy,” Kate says. “Each year, the program doubles in size and the talent pool gets deeper and deeper. Zwift Academy is integral to building the community that is Zwift, and it reinforces how we can change the sport for the good.”

Ride on, Kate. We’re looking forward to seeing how ZA Road 2021 unfolds!

Questions or Comments?

Post below! We’ll do our best to answer any questions, and may reach out to Zwift HQ if you have queries we can’t answer.

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Ryan H
Ryan H
28 days ago

No Today’s Plan premium access included for everyone this time around, correct?Was cool to have access to the tool and its comprehensive insights last ZA. It’ll be interesting to see what Zwift does for PR stats tracking in the Companion app.

The baseline and result rides seems like a nice addition. Good to see they include a mix of efforts as well. Looking forward to this one!

Jesse TP
Jesse TP
25 days ago
Reply to  Ryan H

Hi Ryan, Today’s Plan premium is included for all Zwift Academy participants. It will kick in when Zwift Academy starts on the 30th, including the Comparative Dashboards to see how you stack up in your age group, weight and male/female categories.

Arnaud
Arnaud
16 days ago
Reply to  Jesse TP

Hi,
I created a Today’s Plan account by using the link in the zwift academy webpage.
It says that my trial period ends in 7 days and I don’t see a Zwift academy road dashboard.
Is it already available?

Letteman
Letteman
20 days ago

I have to have surgery on August 31 and can’t ride for 2 weeks. Can I still do it?

Stephanie
Stephanie
19 days ago
Reply to  Letteman

Yes, you have until October 24 to do all 10 events

Letteman
Letteman
16 days ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Thanks for responding. I did the baseline yesterday before surgery. Not sure where to go from here? Is there one place with step by step instructions on how to proceed?

Thanks

Adam Salcedo
Adam Salcedo
18 days ago

Hi👋,
I would like to know how can I get the Specialized TT Helmet. I have seen people with it in the game, but it isn’t in the game shop. (I attach a photo below of the helmet)

04A6F062-F987-469E-BE32-E7ABD71B877A.jpeg
Benjapol Piyawanichpong
Benjapol Piyawanichpong
15 days ago
Reply to  Adam Salcedo

I think that will be for zwift academy Tri. I’m looking forward to that helmet as well

ee09gd
ee09gd
17 days ago

Are you supposed to do each Block on consecutive days? Ie. The 3 Block 1 workouts over 3 days.

Jeremy David Pointer
Jeremy David Pointer
17 days ago

Could you clarify on what basis I should choose Standard or Advanced Baseline/Finish Line Workouts.

Jeremy David Pointer
Jeremy David Pointer
17 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thanks Eric, for the benefit of anyone else reading…. after estimating it would probably take me 90min (or maybe more) to get up to top of epic KOM vs 60min (or maybe less), to get to top of the Volcano (will see how close I am shortly), in the limited time I have and the start time of group rides I decided to go with standard.

Carrie A Matczynski
Carrie A Matczynski
15 days ago

If there is time and recovery is proper, you could probably do both and compare both at the end.

Nancy Elani Lowery
Nancy Elani Lowery
17 days ago

I don’t see any “Recovery Rides” on the schedule. Can you help me find those?

Malcolm
Malcolm
17 days ago

Can someone explain how the “block 1” with three workouts works? I mean three rides in four weeks is not going to make me better. Am I supposed to do same three workouts and recovery each week for four weeks? Or just randomly do them? Or workout one only say three times in first week? Am I missing something in the app which will advise which one next to do and just need to pick a time.

Volker
Volker
17 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm

Thats what i don’t understand as welll. Hope someone can clarify this. 3 workouts in 4 weeks will bring us nowhere.

Marc Elvy
Marc Elvy
16 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm

I don’t understand how this works either. Also you can’t schedule group workouts unless you are in the “A” category 3.2w/kg and above. It seems not too friendly to the newbie.

Lisa D.
Lisa D.
8 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

That is totally unclear in the article, as the typical Zwift ABCD groups are sorted by w/kg. You even reference 4 different groups for baseline and finish line rides. This absolutely should have been make crystal clear in the article. Please edit for us newbies!

Lisa D.
Lisa D.
8 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Please edit your article to add: “Zwift Academy workout #1 events have just two categories: A for men, B for women. No w/kg limits/requirements.”

Please and thank you!

I was sorting events looking for C and D categories in the Zwift companion and I was very confused when the only groups showing were A and B.

Duncan Aspin
Duncan Aspin
6 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Hi Eric, it really is not self explanatory. It is misleading and has left me searching for Cat C scheduled rides.

Duncan Aspin
Duncan Aspin
6 days ago
Reply to  Lisa D.

I agree with this comment. It should be explained that the recovery and other scheduled rides are Cat A and B. I have been searching for Cat C rides. Even the Chat support function didn’t know.

Dan Walker
Dan Walker
17 days ago

The Pro Contract Contender TT race:
”This is a mass-start event using TT bikes. Drafting benefits will be disabled.”
Does that mean:

  1. Everyone rides an assigned TT bike?
  2. Everyone brings their own TT bike.
  3. Everyone brings whatever bike they want, but with no drafting?
Volker
Volker
16 days ago
Reply to  Dan Walker

From the standard baseline ride i can tell: everybody on his own bike, draft disabled.

Not 100% sure about this, but during the segments my power up (feather) seemed to be grayed out / disabled.

Marc Elvy
Marc Elvy
16 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thanks for replying Eric. I shows the cats in the schedule screen. Its lists the cats in the screen shot below..

zwift_ftp.jpg
Marc Elvy
Marc Elvy
16 days ago
Reply to  Marc Elvy

Sorry I put this in the wrong thread.

Marc Elvy
Marc Elvy
16 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thank you!

Jeff
Jeff
16 days ago

I always find these fun, and participated last year as well as this year. I am a little confused on the intent though of how you are supposed to go through the program. So for each block (four weeks) we have three workouts (and the other two rides). With three workouts and four weeks are you supposed to ride x times per week and just cycle through these three workouts, or just do them once each, or blend them with other random training, or what? Would be nice to have a little more guidance on how to “do Zwift Academy”… Read more »

JG Gerber
JG Gerber
15 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

I have the same question. Where can we find suggestions about how to strengthen our riding using this plan?

Carrie A Matczynski
Carrie A Matczynski
15 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Following I posted the same question before reading all posts … sorry all. TIA

Carrie A Matczynski
Carrie A Matczynski
15 days ago

First time doing ZA Road. I need to do my baseline ride, but then when should I do the workouts. There are only 3 workouts to do in each 4 week block + 1 recovery ride. Do I do these workouts over and over during the 4 week block? Do workout #1 in week 1 a couple times, then recovery end of week, #2 in week 2 then recovery again, etc? Not sure what planning should be to maximize benefits. I cannot find anything on best planning to maximize for this program. I usually ride 5-7 days per week, varying… Read more »

Philip Procter
Philip Procter
15 days ago

Does it need be Today’s plan or the stages link?

Laura Milner
Laura Milner
14 days ago

Why aren’t the group workouts posted under events? I also see no metrics on Today’s Plan vs my age group after baseline ride. When do they start showing?

Laura Milner
Laura Milner
14 days ago
Reply to  Laura Milner

Ok scratch the first question. I didn’t have B events turned on. Still wonder about second question

Joni VHB
Joni VHB
10 days ago

If I do the workouts alone by selecting it in the training schedule menu, does it then count as done?

Andrew
Andrew
10 days ago

I can’t find the Zwift Academy Recovery rides in any folders or calenders, any ideas where I should be looking as I need to do my first recovery ride to carry on. Thank you.

Phil
Phil
9 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

They start Sept.13th

Mike C
8 days ago

LOL classically and comically Zwift bad. I’m at around 20k miles on the platform, this is my first ZA, and I was absolutely lost on the baseline because I didn’t realize I needed to write down or memorize where the segments were and how long they were. Could a little guidance not be programmed in? Again, at 20k miles I’m used to it, but surprised this is still what we’re handed given this is the current “big thing” on the platform. Fingers crossed they can find new combinations of the Makuri roads for next month instead of this because that’s… Read more »

James
James
2 days ago
Reply to  Mike C

Yeah I missed the second segment as it wasn’t clear that it was the one I was supposed to put an effort in. I was expecting some instructions on the screen like the commentary on the workouts

Stephen Giangrosso
Stephen Giangrosso
7 days ago

Appreciate you putting together this article. This is my first year doing ZA and it’s been a great reference while I do my best to complete the event.

cozz
cozz
6 days ago

This year is my 5th ZA – i.e. I’ve done them all – and this year’s is puny – for a serious w/o series that will boost your FTP 10+% do ZA 2017, 2018 and/or 2019.
2020 was already a bit watered down. I would finish those earlier year wo’s and basically fall off the bike at the end. This year I have to continue riding at the finish to feel like I’ve done something.

Keith W
Keith W
5 days ago

What does the end date (Sept 19) mean for ZA Road Block 1? Does the block need to be completed by then? Thanks

Anthony
Anthony
2 days ago

Hi. Im trying to learn how to ride more efficiently. So my question is what gear or cadence should I be on or should I be shifting gears through out the academy training?

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