Now in its seventh year, the Zwift Academy Road competition sees a 22-year-old British woman and a 25-year-old Italian man become the youngest 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 this is exactly what happened this week to Great Britain’s Alex Morrice (22) and Italy’s Luca Vergallito (25). The two latest winners of Zwift’s talent identification program are joining major 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 begins with virtual races in the 2022 Zwift Academy Road, which included 160,000 participants. From that is the cycling app company selected 10 finalists at in-person auditions in Denia, Spain, which ended in November.
The finals included various challenges and races, meetings with coaches and each team’s staff, and rides with existing team athletes.
“Alex and Luca have distinguished themselves through exceptional athletic talent, impressive cycling skills and the necessary attitude 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 & Luca Vergallito
A level 34 Zwifter, Morrice impressed the coaching staff at finals. And they believe the relatively new rider has a “huge amount of development potential,” the press release said.
“Alex impressed me with her current power numbers for the type of rider we were hoping to find for the team,” said Magnus Bäckstedt, Chief Sporting Director at CANYON//SRAM Racing. “She has also shown a good understanding of tactics, with a real feel for the race moment, and she still has room to develop.”
Morrice said she feels privileged to work with the incredible women of CANYON//SRAM Racing.
“I was so excited to ride with some of the world’s best female professional cyclists,” she said in the release. “Everyone made me feel so welcome, and I couldn’t be more excited to race with these ladies in 2023 and beyond.”
As for Vergallito, the Italian rider has reached level 39 on the cycling app. He impressed judges and displayed the raw power and ability needed to succeed in real road racing.
“Luca performed in a very consistent way during the Zwift Academy final week, which shows that he has the right physical and mental skills to be a professional rider,” said Kristof de Kegel, performance manager at Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Vergallito sounds clearly excited 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 release. “I’m so grateful that Zwift has given me a way to get noticed, and I’m so excited to join the Alpecin-Deceuninck development team for the upcoming season.”
Follow Zwift’s new winners
Are you a Zwift user? Well, you can actually join Alex Morrice and Luca Vergallito in virtual ride events on the Zwift Companion app.
The Alex Morrice CANYON//SRAM Ride takes place on Monday, December 19th at 10am PST. To ride with Luca Vergallito, join the Alpecin-Deceuninck ride on Tuesday, December 20, at 9am PST.
Find either on the company’s event page here. Or, to go behind the scenes during the finals in Denia, Spain, check this out series of videos.