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From Jay Vine to Luca Vergallito, how did the Zwift Academy laureates fare?

The successful cooperation between Alpecin-Deceuninck and Zwift keeps on running at full speed. In December last year, the Zwift Academy delivered its third winner for the team with Luca Vergallito. Today, Luca is making his debut in the blue and black team colours. And what about the former winners? How did they evolve and what can we still expect from them? Time for an update!

It was in late 2020 that Jay Vine trailed more than 150.000 of fellow Zwifters. The main prize: a pro-contract with Alpecin-Deceuninck, then called Alpecin-Fenix. Cycling fans now, know how the Australian fared. Thanks to the support and guidance of our performance team, Vine emerged as a gifted climber with a win in two mountain stages in La Vuelta as climax. Late last year, Vine moved on to Team UAE Emirates in mutual agreement with the team. The team management of Alpecin-Deceuninck underlined they did not want to stand in the way of his - possible - further development, despite his ongoing contract.

In 2021, 22-year old Alex Bogna crowned himself as Vine's successor. Again, a talented rider, however, the young Australian had to deal with several physical issues in his debut year, keeping him from time to time sidelined. These problems included knee issues, caused by overuse and several major but essentials adjustments to his initial riding position. However, the medical staff did an intensive job of assisting Bogna, and as a result, all the physical issues could be remedied. Even more, he had a flawless winter, and we could see him working hard together with the more experienced pro riders during our training camps.

The races in which Bogna did compete in 2022, he already showed flashes of his talent. Only he as well - like Vine in his debut year - still had to get used to the European way of racing. But that is part of the learning process and an evidence given his young age. This year he is expected to make further progress. In any case, he already made an excellent start to the season with a podium finish at the Australian National Under-23 Championship. Bogna will be played out as a strong puncher in the slightly more selective work. "Efforts of twenty minutes to half an hour, he should be able to handle that. We want to see him evolve during smaller stage races," echoes the team’s performance department. "So that he gains more experience. That is necessary anyway, especially tactically. It is not the intention to push Alex into a servant role at this point. Tailored coaching, that's what it is called. So, we were happy to notice a first key result in the Australian nationals at the beginning of this year.” A new test will follow in the smaller stage races, like Circuit des Ardennes which is kicking off today.

Also, our third Zwift Academy laureate is gifted with talent. Who knows, Milanese Luca Vergallito may also have a bright future ahead of him. Although the Italian is starting his debut year with some delay. An earlier crash, that left a little piece of marble under his skin and rubbed against his kneecap, necessitated an important surgery. But now, Luca is race-fit, for the real start of his professional cycling career in Circuit des Ardennes, a four-day stage race in France.

“I am so excited”, Luca said before the start. “The team's performance department has given me time and guided me perfectly to be race fit. Now that I'm this far along, I'm going to give my best to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Obviously, in this first stage race, the goal is to go home Sunday night feeling satisfied and to be able to build on that.”

"Luca is already 25, but he still has a decent progression margin”, sounds through our performance team. “What type of rider we see in him? More or less comparable to Alex Bogna. He should be able to handle the more selective races and we expect he will recover smoothly in multi-day races. But also here, we should give Luca time to adapt. That’s why we made him a full-time professional rider, but with a spot in the development team. To adapt and grow, without having the pressure of being in the WorldTour team.”

After Circuit des Ardennes, a first evaluation will follow. Tour d'Alsace or the Flèche Ardennais are potential races in which Vergallito could test himself, with a possible participation in the Italian races at the end of the season as focus.

“We are excited and curious to see again in which direction this story with Luca will evolve. Three years of Zwift Academy taught us that each single winner has his own capacities but also his own setbacks, needing an individual development program. That is why each time we are setting up a tailored made program. We believe that sooner or later, this pays-off. Jay Vine’s successes last year were an example, and we are motivated to write a successful story again with Alex and Luca”, conclude the Alpecin-Deceuninck team management.

Photo credits: Chiara Redaschi / Alvento Magazine