From nurse to pro-racer, the Zwift Academy winner is crowned

Chosen from 2,100 to win a pro contract

After months of training, a rigorous selection process and a training camp at Canyon HQ in Germany, nurse and former triathlete and crit racer Tanja Erath has been crowned the Zwift Academy Champion for 2017 and will be joining the Canyon//SRAM team for the 2018 season.

Erath, from Dortmund in Germany, was selected from a field of over 2,100 women in a global search via the online interactive training game Zwift. After 15 years of competing in triathlon she made the switch to cycling only last year after an injury prevented her from running. She is also a qualified nurse.

“I started this confident in my skills as a cyclist and a racer, but had no idea it would end with me here in Koblenz with a World Tour schedule ahead of me,” says Erath. “It’s been such a journey and I’m humbled by the talent I’ve been up against, especially with [Zwift Academy finalists] Siri [Hildonen] and Bri [Torkelson]. I’m so overwhelmed!”

The selection process began with online rides and a training program, as well as a series of tests along the way. The numbers were whittled down using the results of these tests plus data gathered during rides and set workouts.

Finally, 12 semi-finalists were selected by a panel including Canyon//SRAM, Zwift and TrainSharp coaching representatives, and a final three were chosen to attend a training camp in Koblenz, Germany. It was here that the winner was decided.

Ronny Lauke, Canyon//SRAM Racing time manager, says that the Canyon//SRAM Academy was a programme the team had taken a real chance with: "we're very happy with what it brought to our team. Leah is a great addition and, seeing Tanja’s dedication, drive, and strength only reminds us we’ve got a great program here to bring talent into the women’s peloton.”

Participants in the Academy took part in rides and training programs online with Zwift
Participants in the Academy took part in rides and training programs online with Zwift

2016 Academy winner continues with team

The 2016 winner, Leah Thorvillson, will be Erath's teammate for the 2018 season as Canyon//SRAM have extended her contract for a second year.

Having someone on the team who has gone through the same selection process may be a good source of support for Erath when she joins in 2018.

Thorvillson said of her new teammate: “Tanja’s clearly got tons of talent and a great head on her shoulders for competition and racing. She will have a lot of learning ahead of her, just like I did and continue to do, but she’s shown enough resilience balancing her medical studies and training that I know she will take this in stride. I’ve got great memories of what my 2016 announcement was like and I’m just thrilled to see her moving into this world in this way.”

Zwift Academy 2018

For anyone who hasn't considered taking part in the Zwift Academy, or was unsuccessful in their attempt in previous years, the good news is that the Zwift Academy will return for 2018.

Although, as with other years, there will likely be the headline ambition that one rider will be crowned champion and will win the chance to join the Canyon//SRAM team, a large part of the academy is about encouraging more women to try indoor training with Zwift.

In-game group rides and Q&A sessions with experts and pro riders have proved popular and have grown a community within the Zwift universe.

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