Drew emerges as the strongest of 60,000 Zwift Academy entrants from across the globe to claim a professional contract with the NTT Pro Cycling U23 Team
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 proven 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 and there will be two Zwift Academy winners representing the NTT Continental Cycling Team in 2020.
18 year old Christensen emerged as the pick of the three finalists who travelled to Team NTT Pro Cycling training camp in Oliva, Spain.
“This is incredible!” says Christensen. “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.” says 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,” adds 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.
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Zwift is a company of dedicated fitness enthusiasts that also happen to be experienced software and video game developers. Combining that passion and deep understanding of the fitness world, Zwift is the first company to use massive multiplayer gaming technology to bring the outdoor experience indoors. Athletes from around the globe can train and compete with each other in rich, 3D-generated worlds simply by connecting their existing devices & hardware (e.g. cycle trainers, power meters, treadmills heart rate monitors, etc) wirelessly via open industry standard ANT+ and BLE. From friendly competition, to racing & structured training programs, Zwift is building a community of like-minded athletes united in the pursuit of a better social fitness experience.
Qhubeka’s mission is to move people forward with bicycles. “Qhubeka” is an Nguni word that means “to progress,” and, with a bicycle, a person can travel faster, and move further, and carry more, whether it’s to a job, a school, a clinic, or a place of clean water and abundant food. The bicycles we provide also have a crucial role in initial emergency response for disaster relief. Based in South Africa, but operating across the entire African continent, children and adults in rural communities earn our Buffalo Bikes through our Learn-To-Earn and Work-To-Earn programs, moving them forward towards a more secure and richer life.
NTT Pro Cycling is Africa’s first ever UCI World Tour team, starting its first season in 2016. After three successful years in the Pro Continental ranks, the team has enjoyed considerable success as a World Tour team, competing at the highest levels of the sport. NTT Pro Cycling continues to operate a U23 Continental team as well, nurturing junior talent and developing the World Tour team’s future athletes. The Qhubeka project remains at the core of our setup and the very reason why our team exists. NTT Pro Cycling creates a platform for awareness about Qhubeka and garners international support for the project, so that Qhubeka may continue to mobilize the African people, giving the team a sense of purpose beyond competition. NTT Pro Cycling wholeheartedly believes in the #BicyclesChangeLives campaign and that it will remain a driving force behind our success.