BORA - hansgrohe and Red Bull are launching a youth talent identification program using Zwift segments. The partnership points to inconsistencies in Zwift's message and project priorities.
“A diamond in the rough is still a diamond,” were the words of Zwift’s Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer Steve Beckett as he touted the announcement of the company’s partnership with Red Bull and BORA-hansgrohe to “innovate talent ID in sport.”
On February 1, 2023, BORA – hansgrohe and Red Bull are launching ‘Red Bull Junior Brothers,’ a global talent scouting program. By analyzing Zwift and Strava segment ride data submitted by qualifying applicants through May 2023, the group aims to discover the next generation of professional road cyclists.
At the culmination of the Zwift Academy-type program, Bora – hansgrohe will award the two most polished young riders a contract with their U19 team, Auto Eder, and Red Bull will offer an athlete partnership deal.
Beckett’s colloquialism overshadows Zwift’s untapped youth development and talent identification potential. However, it aptly describes the company’s confounding policy towards U16 racers and highlights the streamlining of project prioritization away from some highly sought feature upgrades.
Zwift was shortsighted in overlooking this future when amending its ruleset to prohibit U16 racers from participation. On September 7, 2021, Zwift changed the ruleset governing its Zwift Racing League to read, “Riders must have reached sixteen (16) years of age by the event start date to be eligible to participate in any Zwift Racing League events.
You can read the original 2021 report entitled, “Zwift eSports Ruleset Change Excludes Racers Under 16” here.
There were rumors then of introducing a U16 ZRL, but nothing materialized. When Zwift hired former Amazon Kids+, a hardware/software/content subscription service—executive Kurt Beidler as Co-CEO in December 2022, the rumblings grew louder.
So why embrace the platform’s youth as the innovation of cycling talent identification now?
Why not a Zwift Junior Racing League? Zwifters voted for the long-awaited feature request alongside several others. Like much-needed accessibility adaptations for the visually impaired, an underserved subset that feels “Zwift is probably the most inaccessible app out there.”
Zwifters may find the straight answer in the words of Zwift CEO Eric Min.
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!