Ella Harris has been picked from 5,000 contestants to race with Canyon-SRAM in 2019 following her success in winning this year’s Zwift Academy. The 20 year old overcame the challenge of fellow finalists Mary Wilkinson of Great Britain and compatriot Ione Johnson in Malaga, Spain.
Harris will join Mikayla Harvey of Team Bigla and Sharlotte Lucas of TIBCO-SVB as the third Kiwi to be debuting in the women’s World Tour ranks next year. For Harris the news that she will be joining Canyon-SRAM was unexpected but no less thrilling. “I can’t believe I did it! I’m so happy,” Harris said after finding out that she had won. “I entered hoping, and wanting, to win but when I heard my name called out, it was a feeling of complete shock!”
New Zealanders have a great affinity with the Zwift Academy avenue towards professional cycling, with Ollie Jones successfully gaining a contract with Dimension Data for Qhubeka via the same avenue, and Alex West going all the way to the finals in South Africa this year. But this is the first time a Kiwi woman has successfully tackled the challenges and overcome 5,000 other contestants to gain a professional contract.
Attending the team’s training camp, the three finalists Harris, Johnson and Wilkinson were put through their paces in a series of tests. As Cyclingnews reported, for Harris it was a task that had her and the others very stretched. “The Zwift finals were very rewarding, challenging, and incredibly insightful,” Harris said. “It was a very tough and demanding competition throughout the week, that tested me both mentally and physically. Despite being the most significant challenge I’ve ever completed, being immersed in the team for a week has taught me so much already.”
“To have both a career and sporting path laid out in front of me for the next 12 months is going to give me the best possible opportunity to become the greatest rider I can be, and I just can’t wait to get stuck into it.”
Harris now heads back to New Zealand where celebration with family and friends awaits, from there her attention will turn to being ready for her first year in the World Tour. Harris’ journey towards professional cycling has been nurtured recently by her time with Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling, a team with whom she broke the course record at Le Race earlier this year.
From the team at RoadCycling.co.nz we want to wish Ella the heartiest congratulations and all the best of success next year with Canyon-SRAM.