Not that long ago, Sam Hill was thinking about finishing up cycling competitively.
The toil of more than half a dozen years racing the National Road Series and the feeling that the dream of racing professionally was slipping away, coupled with the disruption of the last 18 months had built up to leave him feeling a bit jaded.
But the chance to potentially 'win' a professional contract has the Tamworth cyclist refreshed and more motivated than ever.
Hill is currently involved in the Zwift Academy Road program, the prize dangling at the end of which is the opportunity to earn a contract with Alpecin-Fenix.
"Without Zwift academy I'd be struggling for motivation big time," he admits.
"It's a very juicy carrot to get a pro contract into one of the best cycling teams if you win."
It's the second year Zwift have offered the incentive after opening up the academy program to all ages (previously it was for under-21 riders).
The 2021 Tour de Brisbane winner acknowledged it "is a bit of a strange concept" that you ride an indoor bike to earn a contract with a professional road team, and admits he was a bit skeptical about it initially.
"I thought it was too good to be true," he said.
But then he watched as his Nero Continental team-mate Jay Vine won (Hill did compete but had to pull out midway through due to other commitments) and was picked up by the Belgian-based team.
So when the opportunity rolled around again, Hill decided to throw everything he has into one last hurrah; his motivation only fuelled further by seeing Vine make his Grand Tour debut last month.
He has hired a coach to train him specifically for it, and has even cut back his hours teaching (he is a casual teacher) so he can give himself the best shot.
"I'm signing up for a lot of punishment but it seems to be working," he said.
The first step for Hill is to 'graduate' from the academy.
To do that, between August 30 and October 25, he must complete six 'structured' workouts, two recovery rides and two benchmarking rides through Zwift's online platform.
As a contender for the pro contract, he has to complete the advanced distance for the two benchmarking rides and in addition complete a 'pro-contender' time trial and workout.
Up to five men and women will then be selected to advance to the finals, which will be held in November.
Hill has so far done about half of the required workouts, which are about an hour and focus on how much power you can produce for a certain amount of time.
Around that he has been spending as much time on the bike, either on the indoor trainer or on the road, as he can. He has been averaging about 25 hours a week; "every pedal stroke" designed to improve his performance in the workouts.
"It's very specific what my training is. I haven't trained with anyone for four or five months," he said.
It is a busy time with Hill also launching his own coaching business - Cycling Performance Coaching - about a month ago.
"I've been coaching a few people as a hobby but I figured if I could somehow turn it into something more viable it would benefit everyone," he said.
So far he is loving it, quipping that it "doesn't really feel like work".
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