Indoor virtual training platform Zwift has today launched its annual search for the cycling stars of tomorrow.

Now in its third year, the Zwift Academy gives users the chance to train like a pro, all while competing for the ultimate prize – a professional cycling contract. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and Canyon-SRAM are returning as partners for the scheme, with talent scouts from both teams sifting through the entries with the aim of finding the next Mark Cavendish or Hannah Barnes.

“It's widely known that I joined the pro peloton after coming through the British Cycling Performance Academy,” said Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish. “At the time this was a brand new concept to try and help talented British riders break through in continental Europe. It's exciting to see another new, even more radical route to the professional peloton with Zwift Academy."

To be in with a chance of winning, participants are tasked with completing four different training blocks over an eight-week period. A total of 20 graduates (ten male, ten female) are then chosen by the pro-team’s scouts to advance to the semi-finals, with the top three finalists for each gender getting the chance to rub shoulders with some of cycling’s top stars at an end-of-season training camp. There, an ultimate winner is chosen, with their lives potentially changed forever.

A slight footnote is that you have to be under 23 to have a shot at the big prize, but there are still in-game and real-world rewards to be unlocked by completing each training block. All riders will also be offered free premium access to ‘Today’s Plan’ for the duration of the Academy, while a new feature for this year will let users see how they fair compared to their age group and their overall standing – so there's still something to get competitive about.

“We want to see as many people graduate the Zwift Academy as possible,” explained Eric Min, Zwift CEO and co-founder. “Unfortunately I can’t win a pro contract, but I will be taking part and am keen to see how my FTP improves again this year.

“As an extra incentive for people to complete the program, we will be donating one Qhubeka bike for every 10 graduates of the Men’s Zwift Academy to support the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka cause. It’s a fantastic program that helps deliver better transport to remote areas of Africa.”

To find out more, visit Zwift