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Zwift Academy Rider wins Pro Contract with Canyon/SRAM

Leah Thorvilson, a former US Olympic trials marathon runner from Arkansas, beat the steep competition from 1,200 other female competitors to win a pro contract and the opportunity to race for the Canyon/SRAM racing team

11 months after announcing a talent search partnership with Zwift, a final winner has been announced.

The three semi-finalists – Jessie Donovan, Leah Thorvilson, and Yvonne van Hattum – spent the last week in Majorca with the team and it was announced that Leah Thorvilson will join the squad for 2017.

Thorvilson is a former US Olympic trials marathon runner who took up cycling after injuries prevented her from running in 2015. The 37-year-old quickly fell in love with the new discipline and used Zwift to pack workouts into what limited time she had.

“It’s been an incredible journey and a totally surreal experience,” said Thorvilson, after spending the better part of the summer participating in group rides and completing structured workout programs on Zwift, before training with the Canyon/SRAM team in Majorca.
 
“Prior to the Zwift Academy, I never would have guessed that this was possible. Jessie and Yvonne are tremendous athletes whom I now consider close friends. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, and I can’t wait to begin this next chapter with the Canyon/SRAM Racing team.”

Thorvilson will leave the team camp on Monday equipped with a team issue Canyon bike, team apparel and her luggage in preparation for full training after the holiday period.

“Our team is about challenging conventions and we’re super proud of Leah,” said Canyon/SRAM Racing rider Tiffany Cromwell, who first announced the competition during a virtual group ride with Zwift users.

“It’d be an honour to have any of the Zwift Academy finalists in the team for 2017; they’ve literally put their lives on hold for this opportunity, but Leah distinguished herself in making the final cut. She is a welcome addition here.”

Zwift CEO & founder Eric Min added: “We knew that Zwift and its community were capable of producing a rider who could race at a World Tour level, but this was only made possible because of Canyon/SRAM Racing. This year was a pilot, and in this respect, our three finalists were true pioneers of their sport. No one can take this away from Leah, Jessie and Yvonne.” 

Leah Thorvilson, a former US Olympic trials marathon runner from Arkansas, beat the steep competition from 1,200 other female competitors to win a pro contract and the opportunity to race for the Canyon/SRAM racing team.