Zwift has announced a multi-year sponsorship with the US-based L39ION of Los Angeles team to help drive diversity in the sport. Both the team, led by founder Justin Williams, and the online riding and training platform are based in Los Angeles.
To celebrate the partnership, Zwift and L39ION will be hosting two social rides on December 22.
"I’m stoked to have the support of Zwift," Justin Williams said when the agreement was announced.
"Like L39ION, Zwift isn’t afraid to challenge the norm. We’ve seen them do great things to promote women’s cycling – offering complete gender parity for all competition. I’m excited that they share the same ambition to promote increased diversity as well."
"Thanks to Zwift and the UCI Cycling Esports World Championships, Cory (Williams) was able to represent the USA for the very first time – that’s big! Zwift will give us a platform to take our mission to a global audience and we’re excited to work together spreading the L39ION mission to the world, and for us to help Zwift deliver on their goals on diversity and inclusion."
For the last three years, the Zwift Academy talent identification program has offered a path for amateur riders on Zwift to a secure place on a professional team. This year’s men and women’s finals will be held on December 19.
Zwift will be working with L39ION to support rider development and to encourage greater participation at the grassroots level, with the goal of helping more people discover the joy of cycling.
"L39ION is just a fantastic force of energy that aligns so well with our brand, I couldn’t be happier to partner with the team," said Eric Min, Zwift Co-founder and CEO.
"This is far more than a sponsorship deal, we have big plans to collaborate and deliver increased diversity and inclusion within cycling. Justin is one of the most influential figures in the sport and we have the platform to help him deliver his message to a global audience."
The subject of diversity – or lack of it – in professional cycling is not complex, as Williams explained recently to Cyclingnews in a special feature interview.
The simple fact that so few athletes from BAME communities race within the WorldTour or ProTeam ranks demonstrates imbalance, while the incidents of racist behaviour both within the peloton and on social media surrounding certain athletes illustrates the need for greater accountability and education.
Williams has battled against discrimination within cycling ever since he entered the sport but he explained that diversity within L39ION came both naturally but also through necessity.
Justin and his younger brother Cory have been ripping up the American racing circuit, winning countless national titles between them, and solidifying themselves among the absolute elite on US shores.
In just a short space of time, L39ION have become a mainstay on the US cycling landscape with plans recently announced for a Continental team that will sit alongside their domestic squad. Not only that, but they have also signed two high-profile women’s WorldTour riders in Kendall Ryan and Skylar Schneider.
"Me and my brother have been the best two racers in America for the last two or three years but we didn’t have a home and we didn’t have a team," Justin Williams told Cyclingnews.
"We were the ones who were left out on the cold, so the team was started out of necessity, so that we could continue doing the things that we wanted to do. We get to steer, we get to be a voice and we can help people understand that there is no diversity. We’re very much working towards a position so that other people don’t end up where we were."
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