Now in its seventh year, the Zwift Academy Road competition means a 22-year-old British woman and a 25-year-old Italian man become the latest winners to hit the big time.
It’s hard to imagine that winning a biking video game can land you on a professional cycling team.
Yet that’s precisely 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 join 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, the cycling app company chose 10 finalists at in-person tryouts in Denia, Spain, which ended in November.
The finals included different challenges and races, meetings with coaches and each team’s staff, and rides with existing team athletes.
“Alex and Luca distinguished themselves for having exceptional athletic talent, impressive on-bike skills, and the necessary demeanor 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, lead sports director at CANYON//SRAM Racing. “She also displayed a good understanding of tactics, with a real feeling for the race moment, and she still has room to develop.”
Morrice said she felt privileged to work with the incredible women of CANYON//SRAM Racing.
“I was so excited to get to ride with some of the world’s best women professional cyclists,” she said in the release. “Everyone made me feel so welcome, and I couldn’t be more excited to race alongside 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 constant way during the Zwift Academy finals 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 clearly sounds stoked to join the team.
“Even for someone who lives so close to the heart of professional racing, it can be very hard to get noticed by the big teams,” he said in the release. “I’m so grateful that Zwift gave me a way to get noticed, and I’m so excited to join the Alpecin-Deceuninck Development Team for the coming 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 will take place on Monday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m. PST. To ride with Luca Vergallito, join the Alpecin-Deceuninck ride on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 9 a.m. PST.
Find either on the company’s event page here. Or, to go behind the scenes during the finals in Denia, Spain, check out this series of videos.