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Watch: Zwift rider sees off over 9000 competitors to earn professional cycling contract

Joe Robinson
21 Nov 2017

New Zealander won the competition and will now ride with UCI U23 Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka in 2018

After hours of gruelling work on Zwift, New Zealand's Ollie Jones has been announced the winner of the 2017 Team Dimension Data Zwift Academy, earning a professional contract with the under 23 Dimension Data pro cycling team.

Overcoming 9,200 fellow entrants, the Kiwi managed to battle his way through a six-week training program, including structured workouts, group rides and races to make his way to the final, hosted at a Dimension Data team camp in South Africa.

In the final, Jones managed to fend off compatriot Sam Mobberley and Australian Nick White to take the inaugural men's Zwift Academy title after impressing a panel of judges from the Dimension Data WorldTour team and coaching company, TrainSharp.

Jones, a former speed skater, will now be rewarded with a year's professional contract with under 23 development team Dimension Data, feeder squad to its African WorldTour namesakes.

Whilst some may remain sceptical about the concept of scouting talent from virtual reality, Dimension Data team principal Doug Ryder was adamant to emphasise the talent of winner Jones.

'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,' said Ryder.

'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.'