Alex West has enjoyed the experience of a lifetime being one of three finalists with Ollie Peckover and Martin Lavrič at the Team Dimension Data Zwift Academy final. The trio were put through their paces by Dimension Data’s coaches and riders – from sprinting with Mark Cavendish to racing against some 400 others in the Zwift Climbing Challenge.
The riders were also given the experience of seeing the impact the Qhubeka charity has on the the communities who benefit from their work, being exposed to a wide spectrum of the team’s activities and influence.
West was selected alongside Ollie Peckover and Martin Lavrič at the end of an Academy that had drawn some 30,000 hopefuls. From the thousands 10 semi-finalists were selected including riders from England, South Africa, Uruguay, Belgium and New Zealand. West was joined in the semis by fellow Kiwis Oliver Young and Max Jones; and from there West advanced to the final.
The final involved a trip to Cape Town where the three riders would be put through their paces, being closely analysed by the coaches and Dimension Data World Tour riders who would come alongside them. Over the course of the week the trio were put through some 20 hours of riding balancing Zwift and road specific tests. The week opened with a fairly easy ride prior to the big tests proper which began on day 2 with a series of threshold efforts over the course of a three hour ride.
A ramp test on Zwift followed, pitting the three against each other over a test that began at 150W and ramped up by 25W every minute to exhaustion. Day 3 brought another 3 hour road ride with hill efforts followed by a race up Alpe du Zwift. Day 4 and pushing passed the halfway point saw the trio join World Tour star Ben King on the road who analysed the three riders’ climbing ability before West, Lavrič and Peckover got to witness the impact of the Qhubeka charity at a bike hand over.
On day 5 Mark Cavendish put the three riders through their paces with sprint efforts and lead out work. Most impressive for Cavendish was the way that the three riders, despite being rivals in wanting to gain the one position on the Dimension Data for Qhubeka team, worked together in their lead out efforts. Finally a cafe ride with Bernard Eisel capped things off before the announcement of the winner of this year’s Zwift Academy.
The three were very closely matched throughout the week, but ultimately it was Martin Lavrič who was selected to race with Dimension Data for Qhubeka next year, following in the footsteps of New Zealand’s Ollie Jones who won the final last year.
Afterwards Alex West reflected on his time in Cape Town and his future ahead. “It’s been an amazing week and I’ve made a lot of new friends. It’s definitely not over and I’m looking forward to what will come next,” West said.
So are we Alex! So are we.