Zwift academy and the 99.97% of us

There are two lines: a pink line indicating the best power outputs of the Zwift Academy Participants and a purple line hovering below showing where I land.

I’m pretty okay at bikes. Decent, you could say. But I’m not exceptional.

Every year, I sign up for Zwift Academy with naive hopes that I’ll be chosen as the next Canyon / SRAM professional racer.

Every year I’m not.

I see the semi-finalists and wonder what they had that I didn’t. What was the team looking for that year? I’m not a sprinter. I’m not a climber. Sometimes I can’t clip in immediately at the start of the race. Sometimes I earn a step on the podium.

I can hold my own but it isn’t noteworthy.

This year, just like previous years, I put my all into the workouts and races. And by “all,” I mean, I came off road racing season and jumped into The Zwift Academy. I may or may not have been on form and then I went on vacation. Then I got sick.

I spaced out the workouts and races so I recovered enough. I think I got my highest four-minute power but TrainingPeaks doesn’t track four minutes so maybe I didn’t.

I started the Academy with a melancholic attitude. It didn’t really matter how hard I worked. I knew I wasn’t stronger than the majority of the folks competing. And if I was the Team Director, I’d only be looking at the tip-top of the field. 

But I tried anyway because why do we do anything? Hope.

Everything we do is out of some form of Hope. No, I’m not about to go Mark Manson on you.

Zwift announced the Ten Semi-Finalists the other day:

Olivia Baril – Top ranking U23 from Canada.

Emily Gass – 7-year competitive rower turned road racer from US.

Catherine Colyn – U23 National Road Race Champ from South Africa.

Ione Johnson – Semi-finalist from last year’s Academy from New Zealand.

Imogen Cotter – Former runner discovered through a Cycling Ireland transfer program from Ireland.

Mary Kate McCarthy – Originally a hockey player, she’s been racing road for one year from New Zealand.

Nathalie Eklund – Background in ballet and triathlon, a semi-finalist from last year from Sweden.

Jessica Pratt – Racing in triathlon and cycling since 12 from Australia.

Veronica Ewers – Originally a soccer player, Crit racing for one year from US.

Samara Sheppard – Mountain Biking National Champion from New Zealand.

Zwift Academy has always been cryptic about who they’re looking for to join the Canyon / SRAM team. I’m assuming they are looking for a specific kind of racer. Maybe they’re looking for a workhorse this year. Someone who can put down the power at the front of the peloton, driving the pace. Or maybe a sprinter? Someone who can hold on in the peloton and win the sprint finish. Or a hill climber. They all look relatively young so maybe they are looking for a U23 racer.

I was talking to my guru as I read through their bios:

“I think what bothers me the most is being naïve enough to think I had a slight chance. I guess I hate being average.” I said.

She told me, “It’s okay. We all have dreams. There isn’t anything wrong with that. Sometimes they come true and sometimes we make peace with them. But the desire to be the best at whatever you do is NEVER a silly thing. You’re definitely not average.”

I followed with, “If everyone’s special then no one is.”

And maybe that’s all we should ever focus on. Not to be the best out of everyone but our personal best. There are only a few “special” people in the grand scheme of things. 

Out of the 68,603, only ten women and ten men were chosen. They are the top .03%. It’s a pipe dream to think that most of us have a chance. I’m part of the majority, the average, no matter how often my mother tells me I’m special.

It’s okay to not be the top .03%. At least in the majority, we know we aren’t alone. They say it’s a lonely world at the top. Only those ten know how it feels to be in the semi-finals suffering through the next series of workouts. Meanwhile, the rest of us, the 99.97%, can commiserate about being average.

We can go back to our jobs, our hobbies, and commit small acts of Specialness. We don’t have to be extraordinary to be recognized as significant.

The way you act in your everyday life matters more in the long run than Zwift Academy results. We’ll forget top ten semi-finalists once the top three are chosen. Once they announce the winner, the other two will fall by the wayside. And guess who will tell the losers they’re “special”? Not the 99.97% of us. Their friends and families will.

They’ll go back to their normal life like we did months ago. 

And the winner of the Canyon / SRAM contract will be a popular topic in Zwift circles for a bit. But that winner will have to continually do extraordinary things to stay in the spotlight. Otherwise, they will become just another cog in the wheel of bike racing. 

They will be average, like the rest of us.

You can’t be special forever to everyone. We’re all our main characters in Life. In other words, “Extraordinary to Everyone” is time-limited. The masses will stop caring about you and what you did eventually.

If you base your self-worth on others’ opinions of greatness or approval, you’ll never be happy. You’ll never think of yourself as special.

Instead of ruminating on your Averageness, bask in it. You can’t control your mediocrity on the whole, but you can control how you behave in your life. Do you give your all to relationships, your hobbies, your health, your career? 

Go above and beyond in those areas. Make a big difference in a few peoples’ lives. If the majority of us are “average,” then small acts of “Special” will make a bigger impact than one person being special. How you leave your mark on the world will last longer than the temporary glory of external accomplishments. 

Go do good in your most uniquely average way.

What'd you think?