Zwift, the global online fitness platform for cyclists, has confirmed Drew Christensen as the winner of the second annual Men’s Zwift Academy Program. Christensen will join the NTT Continental U23 Cycling Team for 2019.
Zwift Academy saw a record 60,000 male riders enter for 2019. The talent ID program is an opportunity for these Zwifters to compete for a professional contract with the NTT Continental Cycling Team. While many of the participants use the program as a means to improve fitness, U23 athletes have the possibility to earn a professional contract.
For the first time, last year’s winner Martin Lavrič has had his contract extended – so there will be two Zwift Academy winners representing the NTT Continental Cycling Team in 2020.
18 year old Drew Christensen emerged as the pick of the three finalists who travelled to Team NTT Pro Cycling training camp in Oliva, Spain.
“This is incredible!” he said. “I entered Zwift Academy with an eye on a semi-final place, I can’t believe I have a pro contract! It will be great to ride on the team alongside Martin Lavrič and learn from his experience through the Zwift Academy and onto a pro team.”
Christensen fought hard against the other two finalists, Mathijs Loman of the Netherlands & Campbell Pithie of New Zealand but it was Drew Christensen of New Zealand who showed ‘superior skills and readiness to secure a one year contract for 2020.’
The camp gives an opportunity for the team management and coaches to see how the riders perform in a team, communicate and ride on the road, beyond just their power numbers. Completing the workouts and races gave Zwift’s panel of expert coaches the opportunity to look at each rider’s power profiles and ascertain where their strengths and weaknesses lay.
“We’ve seen some really strong riders come through the Academy again this year,” said Elliot Lipski, Coach to NTT Pro Cycling. “In fact, I think the pool of talent goes even deeper this year. It’s important to see how the riders react to different scenarios out on the road, how they communicate and how they fit in with the team. These are all incredibly important skills when fitting into a team that spends a lot of time on the road and needs to function as a unit.
“Having spent some time with the riders here in Spain, we’re really confident in Drew. He showed real instinct out on the road, and the other riders took to him well.”
“This year’s Zwift Academy has been great again,” added Eric Min, Zwift Co-Founder and CEO. “As a cyclist, I get a lot from the Academy, both in terms of fitness and also through the enjoyment of leading rides and interacting with the community. I’d like to offer my congratulations to Drew. I’m really excited to see how he performs next year and fits into the team with his fellow Academy winner Martin Lavrič.”
The 2019 Zwift Academy will donate 749 bikes to Qhubeka this year, which will be distributed throughout South Africa in order to bring people in rural communities closer to healthcare, jobs, and education.