The 2019 CANYON//SRAM Zwift Academy Winner is…

9,000 women from around the globe
participated in the Zwift Academy and only three remain. They’re here at the
CANYON//SRAM team camp in Viñuela, Spain, and four days from now one will walk away with a contact to race for the CANYON//SRAM UCI Pro Women’s team. It’s like, my name is 23, my age is Catherine Hey, my name is Catherine Colyn, I am 23 years
old. I’m from South Africa, Cape Town. Well, I think all the feelings is pretty much
a rollercoaster, I was on an airplane with Cathy sitting down, it’s like “dududududu”. I’m like oh my goodness this is really happening. Jessica Pratt, 22, from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. A long way away. Finished my university degree in July this
year, and I’ve started working as a registered nurse. My name is Samara
Sheppard, I’m 29 years old and I’m from Wellington, New Zealand. So I think the
camp became real when we actually got to this accommodation. It’s a
beautiful hotel here and they had the CANYONn//SRAM team bus set up out the
front, and the mechanics already working on some of the bikes. And yeah, just to
see the setup that the team operates in was incredible yeah. It was, yeah…
Receiving the kit was like Christmas. So unreal, like, it’s an amazing kit,
super comfy, very cool to put it on. Race cut! Getting ready for our first ride on day one.
I’m really excited, gonna pedal with the girls for some of the way, and then we
got a ramp test this afternoon. So far as we’re aware it’s just an easy ride, but
you never know what could be thrown at us. Looking forward to it. Jess Pratt, Australian, a bit of an all-rounder so she’s not the kind of athlete that, I see, is not going to excel
in a mountain time trial or a sprint stage. She’s kind of good at everything.
Good at rolling sort of races, ability to repeat efforts late in the race. Very
professional in her presentation, her feedback is very good as well so she
seems to tick all the boxes at this stage. I mean, going to the camp with the
finals, you always think back to your finals, a little bit stressed out because
you’re so close to your dream coming true, so you really want it to work out,
which makes you worry about everything you say, everything you do… Yeah, just
enjoy it as good as possible and be yourself. Riding with the team has been amazing like
all the girls are super friendly, super welcoming. That was nice, it’s beautiful
riding here in Spain and yeah that’s a really great company in the team… So
yeah, it’s been a nice morning so far. Okay well let’s look at Samara
Sheppard. She has quite an extensive background in mountain bike riding quite
an elite level there. New-Zealander, a very aerobic sort of athlete, ability to
repeat those sort of max aerobic efforts late in the race. And that comes from a
mountain bike experience I would say. So I’m looking forward to see what she does
in our testing coming up. Well, day one, beautiful sunshine, and my first
impressions of these finalists: first and foremost they’re funny,
they’re fun to be around, they’re really enthusiastic they all get on, but
also, they’re amazingly talented. We were descending at really high speeds in the
group and they were just riding as if they’d been riding all their lives.
They’re already exceptionally accomplished bike riders, so at the moment for me, although it’s only early days I can’t tell them apart, it’s going to
be an exceptionally interesting competition, I tell you that. Okay so from this ramp test, we’re trying
to establish their threshold. Okay, and the way we do it is we get their peak
1-minute power that is produced aerobicly. We start at 100 watts
every minute we’ve round it up by 20 watts, they must remain seated and they
basically go to exhaustion. This is to the end you’ll see the cadences… It’s
a very slow death. As well as the data though, Kev, it’s the
ability for somebody to push themselves beyond. Yeah. And that’s what you see in
this sort of test regardless the numbers, put those on side, but no that set
that says a lot about the psychological place this put these people in. That was what… She died, she was head down, she lost
that movement there at the end… That’s what it should be, yeah. That was good testing, happy with that one. There it is, in the distance. Come on, keep spinning. In a ramp test, let’s be honest, towards the
end, you expect a bit of an explosion, altogether, become a little bit ragged…
Yeah for me it’s a bit funny, it goest half as well. Yeah look, to be honest, I was
expecting more look I’ve seen her data, what she’s produced beforehand, and I
sort of had a number in my mind that she would reach and we didn’t hit it. You
know I wouldn’t say it was a great test. I feel that, I mean, it’s a competition
yeah and they know that they are under pressure, they want to give the best,
have to give their best. And I don’t think we we saw the best there. That was bad. No, that was good, good job. I should’ve kept going. I couldn’t pedal. That’s what it was, that’s what it is. Ella, I went to set the bike up, and it seems someone took my Di2 plug out, and I’ve only got two gears, and that’s the same for you guys as well. Yeah, we’re doing three and a half hours today with just two gears. That being the big chain ring and
the small chain ring at the front. So no batteries at the back, no worries.
You literally haven’t got a battery. I I mean that… Yeah no battery! So it’s going
to be basically high cadence or low cadence. This is proper old school! I actually don’t know anything about today, it’s been kept a bit of a secret from us. I suspect we’ll have a few challenges
and yeah it’ll be exciting and interesting. Like in a race sometimes,
it’s also good not knowing what you have ahead of you and you just roll with it
as it comes. Midway through the ride the team pulled over to inform the
finalists that they’ll a 7k uphill race. So now we’re gonna start the juicy part for our Zwift girls. They have to race up the very challenging climb, I’m gonna
do a little lead out for them, try to like pick up the pace and get them a
little bit tired before their final battle. I feel like I wanna go pretty deep just
to really make them… suffer. And then, let them do their work. Come on! Who won? Samara just
had a kick on us all and then, just stayed away. My chain came off, did you hear?
Yeah, clearly Samara the strongest there. Cathy said she chipped the chain, it’s bike racing but she’s really really disconsolate, but that’s
understandable because this is the first kind of proper head-to-head, but they
don’t know they’ve got another little race coming up in about ten k’s time, we
haven’t told them yet, so they do have another opportunity to try and go for
it, but already you know people are getting psychologically affected because
there’s a lot of pressure. It’s going to be really steep, I know this climb from
last year’s camp. Yeah, and let’s see how they will perform and how they will do
this climb here. Yeah, you just did that!
Lars, what is your Instagram name? I want to tag you and thank you for the cadence work. The
pro panel was absolutely great it really gave a lot of insights to the the four
girls from the team and they’ve already fed that back to the rest of the team
members. So for the first time on the Zwift Academy we are gonna have a full
panel so each of the finalists, first up is gonna be Jess right here, she’s going
to face some severe hardcore questions and grilling, from the panel just
assembled in. So Jess you’re first up, about 15 minutes of questions. In you go, just go through. Hello! It’s like a job interview or something. Dun dun dun! Why do you think you’re better than Cathy and Samara for a better future member of the team? I think I’m a great team player, I think I got good bunch skills, I think I’m a hard worker,
someone tells me to do something I’ll always do it. Yeah I’d be amazing for the team, I think you guys should pick me. So interesting everything you say like I’m
being assessed. Well, thank you very much. Please pick me. Right, yeah. Enjoy the best you can. I shall
try. And best of luck. Thank you. In you go, into the lionesses’ den, so we call it. Okay. A bit nervous? Are you a hugger or a hand shaker? I like hugs. But it’s okay if you don’t like hugs, I’ll shake your hand. Do you feel judged? Right now yes, a little
bit. So why do you think we should pick you?
Honestly I think because I want this more than the other two, I’ll
just put it straight up and I think I can really see myself being in the team and I feel I
get along with you guys, I mean it feels that way… She’s much more thoughtful and caring. But I don’t believe wanting something
more than someone else means you deserve it. Samara, last but by no means least it’s
your turn, in the den, come on in. Thank you. Vegemite or Marmite? Vegemite. If you weren’t coming to
the team through Zwift, and someone would have to leave the team because of you,
Whose spot would you take? I am more of a climber, yeah. I think we would be a
little bit similar in the hills. Very different, I’m on the fence, it was like
she has so many plans for her mountain bike also. It’s like girls like Jess and Cathy, they’ve got nothing else. And she’s kind of secure, I mean it’s not a bad thing, it just means that she has a
plan B, she’s prepared. [Music] Yeah well today is a high-intensity day
so we’re going to go out and do some sprint work, some standing start and some
flying starts with some of the CANYON//SRAM girls leading our girls out. We’re going
four from the bottom and the big ring. I’m excited for it, it’s something different,
something a little out of my comfort zone. I have done a few, it’s not my strength but…
[Music] [Music] No that was good fun, I do enjoy a good sprint
but we’re not over yet, lead outs to go now. Ella Harris, reporting for duty
[Music] [Music]
[Music] [Music] [Music]
[Applause] [Music]
So out of three sprints did you jump first in each sprint? Yeah, I jumped
first in each sprint. You’ve just got to judge the situation. In this situation I
thought that I probably had the strongest kick and I was able to hold it
so I might as well use that tactic every time. Proofs in the pudding
isn’t it, three for three, so good job. After the standing starts and lead out sprints which
Jess dominated, Lars introduced a sting in the tail, courtesy of an uphill sprint. [Applause]
You punched the air with delight there at the end that, that meant a lot didn’t it?
Yeah, yesterday was a tough one and today’s a different day isn’t it? Yeah like I
said yesterday, it’s like racing a tour, you’re gonna have a bad day and
then it’s only up from there really. Uphill sprint finishes are what I’m
normally good at. Like I’ll watch my blindside incase anyone tries to
sneak up and I just put a second kick in, and I got it.
Good to see you smiling. Catherine Colyn from South Africa for a young athlete she has
quite a bit of experience racing when we look at her background racing she’s done
quite a bit at a good level already. She seems to be more of an aerobic athlete
as well which is good because we’re not looking for a bunch sprinter athlete, we’re
looking for an athlete that can produce a result and work for the team in the
road stages and the hard one-day races. Three athletes that in terms of data
look similar but when you look a bit closer at what they can do with that
there is differences there as well. So either way it’s going to be a very
worthy winner. I think I’ve probably got the strongest kick out of all three girls so I
think I can use that to my advantage. But we’ll see how the race goes on.
I’m feeling pretty positive about it, I had a good morning this morning, confidence
is back up there. I’m just gonna have fun and try my best.
I’ve got a tactic up my sleeve, I’ll be playing my cards well, hopefully. Focus on
my strategy and see what’s happening in the game and see what I can do.
It’s like this doesn’t just come down to tonight it comes down to the past four
days and how we’ve been, how we’ve dealt with the pressure, how we are with the
team and how everything it’s just a collective effort.
It’s a marathon not a sprint. [Applause]
[Music] [Applause] Sheppard actually uses an aero power up
she’s looking to break Gardner immediately. She don’t care. [Applause]
[Music] It was good to see that we had
Jess in the breakaway as well, but she wasn’t quite strong enough to go
with the winner but still given the intensity given the kind of work
load that they’ve had, both of them to finish on the podium that shows a lot doesn’t it?
Well, it shows the quality here but also shows that Samara was the only one of
our three that had a plan going into that race, and she executed it perfectly. And
Cathy, 16th place in the race but didn’t give up at all means she had the crowd
behind her all the way to the line but at no point did her head drop, she
kept on pressing on. Basically, I wanted to go harder, but then I
just kept, I try to push and when you just don’t want to work out. It’s just
tough because I’m just scared that this was like the
make or break. This is something I want with every fibre of my body. Yeah it
means so much to me and I don’t, it’s gonna take a lot to yeah to get myself
back together if it doesn’t work out because I don’t really have anything
else. 24 hours till we find out who wins the pro contract which is pretty
scary because we all want it so much we have a six and a half hour ride first
which will be amazing and climbing up to Sierra Nevada which I’ll probably see
snow for the first time which I’m pretty stoked about but yeah then ultimately
the big decision will be made and I don’t know what the girls are thinking and that
sort of thing so there’s not much more I can do really it’s up to them so I just
hope they want me. I’ve had a really good week this week that’s for sure it’s been
an amazing experience to ride with the CANYON//SRAM girls and
see what it’s like, what it would be like to be part of the team, it’s
been an incredible experience. I think I’ve shown my strengths and I’ve shown
the areas that I have room to improve on so… so I’m happy that we’ve got to this
stage and I’ve think I’ve shown a complete picture of who I am as a rider
and then it’s now down to the team. It would be life-changing to win the
contract, it would be would be amazing to win. [Music] [Music]
So here we are, somewhere between Malaga and Granada and Lisa is dying. [Music] One more climb to go, it’s so beautiful here
I can see the snow now, I’m going higher than I’ve ever been before. There are two
riders that have definitely shown strengths and we think will be good
into the team for next year but it’s abolutely not over we have a really long
endurance ride and we actually want to see for example how the girls handle
themselves in the downhill. It’s definitely still open for all three. [Music] Well interesting is their level again on
this one. It’s a shame we can’t do
it again , so we can have a clear winner.
We bonded over peanut butter and that’s the first thing we’re gonna consume when we get back to Australia.
Yeah, they put us under some pressure though, to set the pace at the bottom
and then Ella took over. Ella was like putting the gas on. She was singing. I’m currently on the gruppetto. You’re currently annoying.
[Laughter] I’m a shell. I just got at my own tempo, 34
hours recovery time, guess I can’t ride for a couple days. I felt good, strong ’cause it
was pretty evil the way we came up like bit f-off steep but they’re all strong.
Poor Cathy I think you know went over her limit, she was a bit sick down there, but very
promising. I get to see snow. [Music]
This is virgin snow they said the word virgin snow. Cathy has never touched snow
we’re now going to touch snow. Winning the contract would be life-changing and
I want it so much yeah it’s crazy I think Jess and I are
the closest competition, she’s got a lot of experience on the road, she can
handle a bike well, she’s a very punchy rider. So it’s quite nerve-wracking. Final
ride with the team and then we hear the selection so it’s not over and
yeah nobody knows what’s gonna happen. Well the final deliberation is currently
being made by the team on who’s going to get the contract for 2020 I’ve taken the
girls out some food they’re just sat back they’re having some patatas bravas, but I
can tell you they are all very very nervous there’s so much at stake. Not
long now to the answer. So, first of all I’d like to congratulate
all of you three ladies for making it one of the hardest and closest Zwift
Academy finals we’ve had in the last four years
it was very difficult decision. Firstly, I’m going to announce who the third
place rider is. This rider showed a lot of heart and determination through all
of the finals, even won some challenges, but unfortunately they’re third place and
that is Cathy. So girls this is really tough for us. We just had a really long
team discussion. We’ve been discussing it each day. We had our final team
discussion where we had to come to a decision. We went one way, then we came back the
other way, then we went one way and then we came back again so it really was very
close and we think that you’re both very talented. And in the end the decision
that we’ve made we’re really excited to bring that rider into the team for next
season. We think that you’ll be a great asset. So the person who will receive a
professional contract with our team for next
season the winner of the 2019 CANYON//SRAM Zwift Academy is
Jess [Applause] Massive congrats to Cathy and Samara,
it’s been an amazing week and I’m so grateful for this opportunity. What’s the news? No? You got it?
Are you on Zwift? Yes. You could not make that up could you. Well that really was powerful and emotional stuff and you could just tell
by the look of disappointment on Cathy and Samara’s face how much it would have
meant to them but for Jess her life has now changed and for the 2020 season
she’ll be pulling on the brand-new colours of the CANYON//SRAM team and we here
at Zwift wish her all the success and I’m sure it will come in spades.

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