GCN takes on the Zwift Academy: Do Andrew Feather or Cillian Kelly have what it takes to make it as a pro rider?

In this second part of the Zwift Academy series, we see how things have been going for KOM sensation Andrew Feather and GCN's own statistician Cillian Kelly

Clock13:30, Friday 22nd December 2023

After taking on the initial workout and some fitness testing in the first part of our GCN takes on the Zwift Academy series, we are back to see just how our Zwifters have been getting on.

Cillian Kelly and Andrew Feather have both come to this year's Zwift Academy from very different angles, with Cillian returning to cycling following a hiatus after he completed the L’Etape du Tour last year. Feather, on the other hand, is fresh off the back of claiming yet another national hill climb championship. In this latest episode, we catch up with both riders to see if they have what it takes to claim the ultimate prize of a pro cycling contract.

How has Cillian been getting on?

To qualify for the pro cycling contract prize riders need to complete the longer form workouts that are set out in the Academy. For Cillian, this was something that was a struggle right from the outset. After completing the first two weeks of workouts in this longer format he found that just the duration left him hanging on by the end and unable to give his all to the workouts. For the third week, he decided to drop down to the shorter workouts to be able to push on and get the training benefits of riding in the right zones for each workout.

Even though he needed to drop down to the shorter workouts, Cillian is certain that as the academy goes on he is becoming noticeably fitter. One of the key takeaways from his attempt is that the Zwift Academy is a great tool for forming positive habits. The accountability of needing to complete a race and a workout each week has grown the habit of regular cycling both on Zwift and outside.

Can Andrew Feather add the Zwift Academy winner to his national titles?

For Feather, his progress in the academy has been stifled somewhat by everyday life. A busy work schedule and family life have left him very little time to get on the bike and participate in the Zwift Academy workouts and races. To catch up, he's had to complete five Zwift workout sessions and two races in four days, something we certainly don’t advise if you are looking to get the best from yourself during the academy.

As a Zwift newbie, the second workout in Feather’s bumper training block fell foul to a technical issue. His phone that was using to access Zwift died 90% through the workout.

Some of the other workouts also proved testing for the hill climb champ with a high cadence session making it impossible for him to jump out of the saddle and adopt his desired riding style.

With time running out to get the workouts complete Feather was left with no option but to drop the workouts down to the shorter versions to allow him to fit them in around his busy schedule. The focus now was getting ready for his first Zwift race to see how he could perform in a virtual race against the rest of the Academy participants.

The final race of the academy

With all chances of GCN taking a victory in the Zwift Academy out the window, it all came down to the final Zwift race to see if Kelly or Feather could take the win in their respective categories.

The setting for the race was the Richmond course that is based on the 2015 UCI Road World Championship circuit that saw Peter Sagan claim his first of three rainbow jerseys. The profile of the race lends itself well to Feather’s strengths with a series of three short and punchy climbs where he can lay down some power.

For Cillian, the race went to plan with him sitting in the front group for the duration of the race until the final punchy climb where he found himself distanced, ultimately coming in mid-pack in his category. For Feather, the quirks of virtual racing showed a lack of virtual race craft meaning a lot of learning was needed on the fly with the help of Conor. Throughout the race Feather found himself yo-yoing off the back of the front group with the pace relentless and the repeated surges getting the better of him crossing the line in 9th place.

The results, however, are just part of the picture with Cillian proving the merits of the academy extend beyond the pro contract on offer. For him the routine the training programme provided allowed him to form a positive cycling habit that should stand the test of time beyond the Academy.

If you took part in the Zwift Academy let us know how you got on and tell us one thing you learned from participating in the comments section below. If you are new to indoor training, we have you covered with a whole library of indoor-specific content that you can find here.

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