Leah Thorvilson wins Zwift Academy
This week CANYON//SRAM Racing announced the final addition to its 11-rider roster in 2017 when American Leah Thorvilson won the inaugural Zwift Academy.
In January 2016 the team announced a project with its partner Zwift, the online social fitness platform for cyclists, to search for cycling talent with non-conventional methods and offer one woman a professional contract. More than 1200 women signed up and were put through a series of structured online workouts and tests. Narrowed down in the semi-finals stage to twelve women, training became a combination of indoor and outdoor sessions before three talented women were selected to train with the team in Mallorca for the ten-day final.
Ronny Lauke, CANYON//SRAM Racing team manager said “We had the pleasure to meet three highly motivated women, whom have qualified for the final round. All three of them had strengths that would be beneficial for the team and weaknesses where team help will be required in the future. Although from a power output Leah was the strongest, it has not been the only factor to play a role in her selection. It was her curiosity of what to expect next, how to do it best in training every day, and also the continued positive spirit after some setbacks that made us believe we can have the most impact on her further development.”
Thorvilson now earns a pro contract and the opportunity to race with team in 2017. “The Zwift Academy was the first time I had done any structured training on the bike and I’ve really enjoyed seeing my improvements. The members of the Zwift Academy became a real friendship group. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to begin this next chapter with the CANYON//SRAM Racing.”
Thorvilson, a former accomplished marathon runner from Little Rock, Arkansas took up cycling after a series of injuries prompted her move just 18 months ago. Working full time as a development director at the University of Arkansas, Thorvilson quickly fell in love with cycling. “You know when I stopped running I never thought I could enjoy another sport again in the same way. But this experience has been incredible. I feel like I have another chance and I think I love it even more,” she told the team management.
Lauke looks forward to a continued partnership between the team and Zwift in the future. “What we do like about the Zwift Academy is that it offers more people to get involved in the sport overall. We have connected the traditional pathways to enter a pro team with the new digital world. We believe there are many talents out there not being able to show their strength and we are willing to take on the challenge to show it’s possible to come from a different background. There are many things that both worlds have in common and every side can benefit from another.”
“The sport is constantly growing with fans becoming more active, wanting to become more involved, more interested in what the teams are doing behind the scenes. We want to be open and accessible, and we want to motivate people to get on bikes: indoors, outdoors, on the flat, in the mountains, everywhere. We believe the Zwift Academy is inspiring for many and the responses from the four film episodes of the finals in Mallorca pays tribute to that.”
Watch the final film here: Episode 4