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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.