Jess Pratt finished second at the 2019 L’Étape Australia by Tour de France. A few days later, she was flying to Spain for the final of the Zwift Academy, which allowed her to join the Canyon // SRAM team. Jess agreed to answer a few question for L’Étape Australia.

How did you start riding?
I started riding at a very young age. I grew up watching my dad leave to go cycling at 5am in the mornings, and I wanted to be just like him. Then I started racing when I was 11. I was doing local kid’s triathlons and decided I wanted to improve the cycle leg. I haven’t looked back since.

What do you love about cycling?
Cycling is such a special sport to me. The most unique experiences have been created through riding my bike. I enjoy the freedom, going fast, challenging myself and the amazing locations the bike has taken me to. It has provided me with many lifelong friendships as well.

Have you ever envisioned becoming a pro before entering the Zwift Academy competition?
I got my first taste of international racing back in 2015 when I represented Australia at the U19 UCI Road World Championships in the USA where I finished 9th. It was an incredible experience for the 16 years old me, sitting at the dinner table with my Australian cycling idols. I returned to Australia with the dream of one day turning pro. However, I put this behind me as I was entering my nursing degree and continued racing within Australia while completing my degree. In 2017 I was selected for the Australian women’s development team to head to Europe for a block of two months of racing. It was an extraordinary experience, with the fire of turning pro ignited again. Upon returning home, I had 18 months of nursing to go, so decided to knuckle down and finish my degree. The dream still remained, however being from Australia I knew it would prove difficult. I entered the workforce as a registered nurse before signing up for the Zwift academy with the only ambition to keep fit and see where it would take me. The Zwift academy has provided a pathway like no other. I will spend the rest of my life incredibly grateful for this opportunity that Zwift and Canyon // Sram racing have offered me.

The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 were extremely busy for you. Tell us more about your transition from amateur to pro cyclist.
It was a very busy end to 2019. I headed down to L’Étape Australia by Tour de France with my NRS team from 2019 – Sydney Uni Staminade. L’Étape Australia was held three days prior to my flight to Europe for the Zwift academy finals, and I felt incredibly lucky to be riding my bike in such a beautiful Australian location that I had never visited before, whilst it provided the perfect final preparation for the finals. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip down south and look forward to participating in L’Étape Australia again in the future!

The Zwift academy finals were a very special experience. I chose not to think about the outcome and instead put a great emphasis on how grateful I was to be in Spain for the first time. Winning the finals didn’t sink in for a little while. Racing in the Canyon// Sram kit has been a dream come true.

2020 is a trying year for everyone, however it feels special to finally be in Europe racing my bike with an amazing group of teammates and staff. I have a lot to learn, but I am absorbing as much as possible, and getting the most out of every experience. It has been a wild 12 months, and I am enjoying every minute of it!