2022 Zwift Academy Finalist Lucas Hoffman is one of five men who remain of the over 96,000 participants in this year’s edition. He will join the nine others (four men and five women) in Denia, Spain, in mid-November for the shot at an Alpecin-Deceuninck pro contract.
GCN will broadcast the finals beginning on December 13 and announce the winner on December 17. Good luck to all of the finalists!
An interview with 2022 Zwift Academy Finalist Lucas Hoffman!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do? What do you like to do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
My name is Lucas Hoffman. Currently, I’m living in Adelaide, South Australia, and working as a 4th-year electrical apprentice. Cycling is really my main hobby outside of work. Unfortunately, between the two, it doesn’t leave much time for some projects I’ve got going in the shed.
What is your cycling story? When did you start competing, and what is your racing history? What is your most significant accomplishment racing on the road?
I started cycling in high school on an outdoor velodrome, sort of just racing locally in the town I lived in. It’s only really been in the last few years I’ve taken it more seriously after winning a few state championship events and some local races.
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports? What is your experience racing on Zwift’s elite level? What is your most significant accomplishment racing virtually?
I started using Zwift a lot more over 2020, with nearly all racing canceled, lockdowns, and borders closing. It kept me motivated to train, and I enjoyed getting on Zwift races with a few friends. Apart from that, I haven’t really done much higher level Zwift racing.
Tell us about your esports team. How has racing with your team prepared you for this moment?
I don’t currently race for a team.
Tell us about your setup. Where is it located, and what do you use? What steps do you take to verify your accuracy?
I have my ergo in my lounge room. I just found cooling easier as the garage gets way too hot in summer. I have an Elite Direto trainer and use the Quarq Dzero on my bike. The Quarq is calibrated, and everything gets zeroed before any session. I connect to a gaming PC in my lounge room to use Zwift on the TV there. The experience is a lot better that way.
You have accomplished so much in esports. What is it that sets you apart from other virtual athletes?
I’m pretty similar to many virtual athletes, having jobs and commitments outside of cycling.
Will cycling esports gain acceptance as a trusted discipline and popularity as a unique discipline? What challenges does it face?
Cycling esports will continue to grow in popularity, especially if equipment setup costs are continually lowered. The main challenge faced is data accuracy, but that’s where ZADA is making good progress.
Congratulations on being named a Zwift Academy Finalist. It's a tremendous achievement. What is your Zwift Academy "why?" What motivated and inspired you?
I have always wanted to be a pro cyclist and saw Zwift Academy as a fantastic opportunity to realize that dream. My coach, Dan from Nero Coaching, suggested I focus on it. We set out a program to get me in good shape for what we thought the Alpecin Deceuninck coaches would expect.
It was great to have that structure from someone who knows Jay Vine and Cooper Sayers. That helped me prepare. It also gave me something to train for over those few months without other racing and lousy weather.
How were you notified that you were a finalist and what's the first thought that entered your mind?
They notified me on a call at 3:00 AM. It didn’t hit me that I was a finalist and would be going to Spain. It became more real later that day after I was thinking about it at work, but I couldn’t tell anyone at that point.
Was the decision difficult, and what factors did you consider before accepting the invitation?
The decision was easy. Luckily I had plenty of time to organize other commitments and took some time off work to try and prepare. Having never done much training before, we thought a little mini-training camp would give me a boost.
What goals do you have for yourself? What will make your Zwift Academy experience a success in your mind?
Being there is a success in itself, but also, for me getting that pro contract is the ultimate goal. However, the exposure from Zwift Academy is massive, and if I weren’t successful in gaining the contract, there would be plenty of other potential opportunities.
What do you envision the experience like living in a house with the other finalist while competing against them for the only pro contract?
It will be quite strange as everyone’s goal will be to win the contract. It’s similar to racing, where everyone tries to win for themselves.
How do you feel about the reality show marketing aspect of the Zwift Academy finals? Are you okay with having all your data out there, the rider of the day competitions, the made-for-tv surprise workout challenges, and the eliminations?
I’m not the type who enjoys being filmed and having my life put out there for everyone to see. If I was to win the contract, that is all part of it.
On the data side of things, I have nothing to hide. People don’t have much to gain from seeing it.
The rest of the competitions and workouts are just part of being there, and you just got to get through them, even if you might not enjoy them.
The eliminations will be brutal as someone is going home that’s worked hard to be there, but that’s life and part of the competition.
The Zwift Academy finals consist of a combination of virtual and road performance competition. How do you feel about going head-to-head on the road? Does success on Zwift translate to the road?
I actually think I would be more worried about racing on Zwift. I have yet to have the experience some of the other guys have had. Also, if you have a big engine and watts per kg, that will translate to performances on the climbs, but there are so many other factors to racing outdoors.
What advantages do you have over your competition? What challenges do you face?
The advantages I might have are my sprint and short-term power. Also, I can be quite aero, which can help a lot in flatter things. The main challenge I face is coming from Australia and adjusting to the timezone and jet lag. I hope it doesn’t affect me too much.
What is the first thing you are going to do when you win? How will it change your life?
The first thing I would do is quit my job. I can’t do much pro cycling when I’m still employed there! It will be a massive change from working big days and then training. My life will purely revolve around cycling rather than being split between multiple things.
Will the decision to accept the professional contract be a difficult one? What factors will you need to consider?
No, I don’t think it will be difficult to accept the contract. I don’t think many, if any, people that go to the finals would get there and then not want the contract. I need to consider my liabilities in Australia and the logistics of what will happen next year.
How will it change your life if you aren't the last rider left standing?
I don’t think it will affect me that much. I’ll go back to doing my normal thing. I might be a little disappointed, but at the end of the day, there must have been reasons I wasn’t the winner. I would have to focus on why and how I can improve.
What advice do you have for cyclists who dream of a professional career but haven't been successful in getting noticed?
Never give up, and be consistent in your training. Work your way up in races and keep putting yourself in front of the bigger teams, whether going to bigger races or races that have more exposure.
Thank you, Lucas. Good Luck!
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Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!