A young cyclist from New Zealand has beaten off more than 9,000 other riders to win a place on Dimension Data’s under-23 team through a competition hosted by online training platform Zwift.
Ollie Jones was one of 9,200 aspiring pro cyclists who signed up for this year’s Zwift Academy talent identification programme, with the first phase lasting six weeks and seeing participants undertake online workouts, group rides and races.
10 of the hopefuls progressed to the semi-finals which lasted a fortnight and comprised both online and outdoor workouts as they vied to make the final at Dimension Data’s training camp in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this month.
Jones, a former speed skater who switched to cycling due to injury in May last year, was one of three cyclists to make it through alongside fellow Kiwi Sam Mobberley and Nick White from Australia. The trio spent a week riding with the team and undertaking more challenges.
“To say this is a dream come true is the understatement of the year,” said Jones after learning he had secured a year’s contract with the development squad, which races at UCI Continental level.
“It’s a life changing experience and I still can’t believe it’s happening. Nick and Sam were incredible competitors in the Academy Final and, after this camp, good friends.
“Now I’m onto the next challenge of making the move to a now home in Lucca, Italy and doing everything I can to support my team mates in the season ahead”
Doug Ryder, team principal for Dimension Data, said: “Finding the next young talent is never easy, but Zwift’s reach and data collection opens our team up to the whole world.
“Of course, there’s no substitute for the tactics, bike handling, and skills a rider needs in real-world racing, but these finalists presented us with the raw materials we need to find the next generation of world class talent.
“This isn’t a marketing gimmick; many of our riders are passionate about riding Zwift and they’ve seen first-hand what a capable rider Ollie is. We’re super proud to have him on the team”
Eric Min, Zwift’s founder and CEO, commented: “Last year’s Zwift Academy proved that the talent is out there and they’re using Zwift.
“While we had no doubt in the strength of our community of Zwifters, we’re lucky to have a partner like Team Dimension Data share that confidence.
“Heartfelt congratulations not only to Ollie, Nick, and Sam but also to the thousands who got more fitter and stronger by graduating from the Zwift Academy programme,” he added.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.