Caitlin Conyers in race for professional contract
Caitlin Conyers is gearing for her most significant competition to date, as she stands of the verge of winning a first professional contract.
The Bermudian cyclist has been named as one of ten riders – five men and five women – to be shortlisted as finalists for the Zwift Academy road programme which will earn one male rider a chance to compete for Alpecin-Fenix and one woman a spot with the Canyon-SRAM team.
For Conyers, the opportunity came as an odd twist of fate, having only taken up the challenge after suffering the heartache of missing out on the prestigious UCI Road World Championships, in Belgium last month, as part of the Bermuda team, due to a positive Covid-19 test prior to departure.
“I only decided to do it this year because I had to quarantine and luckily I had no symptoms. I was stuck in my room with my bike set up with Zwift,” said Conyers, who has been using Zwift – a virtual app to help aid cyclists, runners, and triathletes in training – for the past three years.
“Essentially, Zwift set workouts and group rides that have to be complete in a certain time period. There is also additional stuff to complete but throughout the whole process they don’t disclose anything about the data or performances so you have no idea how you are doing.
“I first started back in 2018 and have done it every year since. Every year there is the opportunity to be a finalist for a professional contract but to me it was just a far off dream.”
“It’s funny because I was just doing my thing to stay fit and I almost didn’t finish the full requirements to be eligible for the pro contract opportunity. I ended up doing it all but thinking I hadn’t done very well and then I get the email out of the blue to tell me I’m a finalist.
“It’s a really weird twist of fate and a huge silver lining to missing out on the World Championships. If I had gone, there was no way I could have done the Zwift Academy.
“I’ve gone from being in tears after having to miss the World Championships to finding out I’m off to Mallorca for a chance of gaining a professional contract; it’s pretty crazy really.”
In what would have been Conyers off-season, she is now in full training in preparation to go up against fellow finalists, Imogen Alton (Australia), Maud Oudeman (Netherlands), Rachael Wales (Australia), and Willemijn Prins (Netherlands) for a professional contract.
The male and female finalists, will be together at the same camp for the first time and will be joined by riders and staff of their prospective Canyon-SRAM and Alpecin-Fenix teams at the end of November. Coaches will assess the riders' performances on the famous climbs of Mallorca as well as on Zwift and during off-bike activities, with the winners announced on December 17.
“It’s definitely given me a whole new motivation,” Conyers added. “I’ve even been out riding in the rain on a Monday morning which you never would have caught me doing.
“It’s kick-started my season again. Normally I’d be in my off-season but I’ve been in full training mode again and hopefully I’ll hit peak fitness by the time I arrive in Majorca.
“This opportunity is absolutely huge and pretty unbelievable. Especially considering I have the potential chance to be part of a World Tour cycling team; it’s huge.”
While the 31-year-old is determined to put as little pressure on herself as possible heading into the final, she conceded it is proving difficult to ignore the magnitude of the opportunity that has been presented in front of her.
“It’s truly an incredible opportunity but I’m trying to go into with as little expectation and pressure on myself as possible,” said Conyers, who still has an offer to ride with the Lux Specialized Development Team in the United States for next season.
“It’s unbelievable really because I was ecstatic about being offered another chance to ride with the LUX team and now I’m in chance of becoming a paid professional cyclist.
“Really for me it’s a win-win situation because I’ll either get a professional contract or I’ll be riding with the LUX development team, so I’ll still be close to where I want to be to make that jump to becoming a professional.
“However, it’s hard not to think about the opportunity though because becoming a pro is a dream fro anyone in cycling. To be paid to do what I love and to be riding at that level would be absolutely huge; it’s a very big deal.”