GCN takes on the Zwift Academy: Andrew Feather and Cillian Kelly begin the six-week test

Andrew Feather is the British Hill Climb Champion but has never done a workout on Zwift. Cillian Kelly is our 'average man' but does have Zwift experience. Can either of them win the prestigious pro contract with Alpecin-Deceuninck?

Clock12:38, Saturday 2nd December 2023

Indoor training giant Zwift runs an annual talent-scouting event towards the end of every year, called the Zwift Academy. This is a training and racing series that sees riders participate in a number of workouts and tests, with the ultimate prize being a contract with either Alpecin-Deceuninck or Canyon-SRAM's development teams.

With such big prizes on offer, we know the process must be rigorous, but what exactly goes into the Zwift Academy?

To find out, we are putting GCN stat man Cillian Kelly and GCN regular Andrew Feather to the challenge this year, starting the Zwift Academy from the beginning to see how far they can get.

What is the Zwift Academy?

The Zwift Academy is a training program run by the virtual riding platform. It comprises six weeks of structured training. Within each week a mandatory workout has to be completed. Participants also compete in two races throughout the Academy program.

Zwift has made the Academy open to every user, regardless of fitness or aspirations, encouraging people of all abilities to get involved and try six weeks of structured training. For those that rise to the top, the ultimate cycling prize awaits, with a year-long pro contract up for grabs.

The final is only a small part of the process, though, and for the vast majority of participants, Zwift Academy is about getting stuck into six weeks of training and seeing how far they can go.

Meet the participants

This year GCN has two riders in the mix. Both come from very different ends of the spectrum, so we can find out how different types of riders cope with the Academy process.

Cillian's aim, as a recreational cyclist, is to see just how much he can improve on his base-level fitness in the length of the six-week training block.

For Andrew Feather, the British Hill Climb champion, he is looking to see how competitive he can be at the pointy end of proceedings. Having not spent much time on an indoor trainer before, the Academy is the perfect way for Feather to experience what it is all about.

Cillian Kelly

Cillian is GCN’s resident stat man - there is no obscure cycling stat that gets past him. You may remember him from last year's GCN+ documentary ‘Zero to Hero’ where we followed his build-up to L'Etape du Tour. Since then, his fitness has been on the decline. Without a goal and with regular life commitments getting in the way, he is almost back to where he was before training for L'Etape.

The goal of completing the workouts in the Zwift Academy is the motivation he needs to get back on the bike consistently. Although he might not be looking to sign a pro contract at the end, the Academy is great early winter motivation to keep the legs turning.

Andrew Feather

This man is arguably the king of Strava, with more King of the Mountains trophies than any other male rider on the platform. He is also a four-time National Hill Climb champion, having taken the 2023 title only a few weeks ago. Since then he has relaxed and enjoyed a well-earned off-season but is ready for the challenge of the Academy.

A traditionalist rider, Andrew prefers the great outdoors to the pain cave. He has spent very little time riding indoors and has never completed a structured Zwift workout before. His climbing style is predominantly out of the saddle, so it will be interesting to see how his numbers compare indoors in the high-intensity efforts.

The workout

The first week's workout tested the riders' anaerobic capacity with a mix of 30-second maximal intervals and some longer two-minute maximum efforts. After completing these there was a 20-minute block of tempo, riding at 80% of their FTP.

As you might expect, Andrew took this in his stride even if it was the first high-intensity ride for a few weeks. For Cillian on the other hand, it came as a bit of a shock to the system, with the final 20-minute block proving just that little bit too much.

Want to see how exactly each of our riders got on? Watch the full video above and come back to see how the rest of the Academy goes.

We will be checking in with the duo towards the end of the month to see how they have been getting on with the sessions and get their opinions on virtual racing. Make sure to keep up with their progress here and on the GCN YouTube channel.

For more information on indoor training head over to our dedicated indoor cycling page. Or if you want to find out more about the Zwift Academy, check out our coverage of it here.

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