Zwift Academy 2022: From VR to Pro Racing Contracts
Now in its seventh year, the Zwift Academy Road competition means a 22-year-old British woman and a 25-year-old Italian man become the latest winners to hit the big time.
It’s hard to imagine that winning a cycling video game could land you on a professional cycling team.
Yet that’s precisely what happened this week to Britain’s Alex Morrice, 22, and Italy’s Luca Vergallito, 25. The latest two winners of Zwift’s talent identification program join top cycling teams. It will be the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI, the international governing body) Women’s World Tour with CANYON//SRAM Racing for Morrice, and the Alpecin-Deceuninck Development Team for Vergallito.
Zwift’s annual competition kicks off with virtual races at the Zwift Academy Road 2022, which had 160,000 participants. From that, the cycling app company chose 10 finalists in face-to-face tests in Denia, Spain, which ended in November.
The finals included different challenges and races, meetings with each team’s coaches and staff, and field trips with existing team athletes.
“Alex and Luca distinguished themselves by having exceptional athletic talent, impressive cycling skills, and the demeanor necessary to learn what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of racing,” Zwift said in a press release.
Zwift Academy Road 2022 Winners: Alex Morrice and Luca Vergallito
Morrice, a level 34 Zwifter, impressed the coaching staff in the finals. And they believe the relatively new rider has a “plenty of development potential,” the press release said.
“Alex impressed me with his current power numbers for the type of rider we were hoping to find for the team,” said Magnus Bäckstedt, CANYON//SRAM Racing Principal Sports Director. “He also showed a good understanding of tactics, with a real sense of timing in the race, and still has room to develop.”
Morrice said she felt privileged to work with the amazing women at CANYON//SRAM Racing.
“I was so excited to be able to ride with some of the best professional cyclists in the world,” she said in the statement. “Everyone made me feel very welcome and I couldn’t be more excited to be racing alongside these ladies in 2023 and beyond.”
As for Vergallito, the Italian cyclist has reached level 39 in the cycling app. He impressed the judges and displayed the raw power and skill required to succeed in real road racing.
“Luca performed very consistently during the final week of the Zwift Academy, which shows that he has the right physical and mental abilities to be a professional cyclist,” said Kristof de Kegel, performance manager at Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Vergallito clearly sounds happy to join the team.
“Even for someone who lives so close to the heart of professional racing, it can be very difficult to get noticed by the big teams,” he said in the statement. “I am very grateful that Zwift has given me a way to get noticed and I am very excited to join the Alpecin-Deceuninck development team for the upcoming season.”
Follow the new Zwift winners
Are you a Zwift user? Well, you can actually join Alex Morrice and Luca Vergallito in virtual travel events on the Zwift Companion app.
The Alex Morrice CANYON//SRAM race will take place on Monday, December 19 at 10am PST. To ride with Luca Vergallito, join the Alpecin-Deceuninck race on Tuesday, December 20 at 9am PST.
Find any on the company events page here. Or, to go behind the scenes during the final in Denia, Spain, check out this video series.