Over 68.000 riders started the Zwift Academy 2019 in August this year. While for most it was a great way to get fitter and faster, for some this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a pro. Only 24 riders graduated in mid-October for the semi-finals and a few weeks ago, the six finalists for the Men’s and Women’s 2019 Zwift Academies were announced. Let’s meet the three ladies of whom one is very close to a life changing experience with CANYON//SRAM Racing.

Samara Sheppard
29, New Zealand

Samara isn’t new to cycling. After her running injury thirteen year ago, she decided to go for cycling and not without success! As a multi-time National and Oceania Champion in MTB, she was seen on the top of the podium several times. Now she has set herself a new target: hop over to the road and Time Trial disciplines. Her biggest goal is participating at the 2022 World Championships in Australia.

Right now she is looking forward to meet the CANYON//SRAM Racing team and wants to learn about their experiences in the pro peloton. According to her, she is “good at anything once it becomes a competition”. That might be the key ingredient if you want to win something like the Zwift Academy. To wind down when she’s not riding a bike, she loves to spend time with family and friends, drink good coffee, yoga and walk with her dog at the beach.

Jessica Pratt
22, Australia

Jessica races both in triathlon and cycling for ten years now. Her greatest achievements so far are a 9th place at the U19 World Championship Road Race in Richmond in 2015 and a U19 National Road Race title. Furthermore, Jessica raced a European tour with the Australian development team two years ago.

Yep, this lady knows how to peddle fast! Besides, she is an all-rounder and loves “a good sprint finish but a mountain top is pretty cool also!” She’s really looking forward to the last phase of the Zwift Academy: “So surreal, such a dream making it to the finals!” With her qualities she might be able to quit her job as a full-time nurse soon.

Catherine Colyn
23, South Africa

Becoming a pro rider is the biggest dream for Catherine. She is skilful on both road and MTB and is able to master long steep climbs and technical descents. Her trump card is her race craft and this helped her lead teammates to win races. It also secured her victory in the U23 National Road Race Championship last year. She isn’t done with cycling yet and is eager to learn and develop her skills to become even faster and stronger.

Off the bike she is chasing her dream as well and loves to expand her knowledge on sports nutrition and recovery. She can’t wait to “meet and ride with the team in Spain and to climb up Sierra Nevada. To be able to ride my heart out and fight for the pro contract.” That’s the spirit Catherine!

This is how the announcements of the finalists unfolded: