25 year-old Italian amateur racer Luca ‘Il Bandito’ Vergallito capped a stellar 2022 IRL (in real life) gran fondo and virtual Zwift racing season by earning a pro contract with the WorldTour Alpecin-Deceuninck team on Saturday.

After winning the Italian Junior National Championship in 2015, Vergalitto dropped out of the sport, only to returning to riding in 2017. Since then he has an built impressive list of top amateur gran fondo victories, including Sestriere, Coppi, Stelvio, Tre Valli Varesine and the 2022 GFNY World Championship in New York City. Using his IRL success Vergallito turned his focus to virtual racing on Zwift this past autumn, specifically the GoZwift Academy road series offering a pro contract as the top prize.

After surviving numerous qualification rounds that eliminated over 160,000 Zwift competitors, Vergallito made it into the final Top 5 competition taking place at a week-long Alpecin-Deceuninck December training camp in Spain.

The finalists participated in Zwift and IRL events against one another and pros, with Alpecin-Deceuninck staff deciding which amateur to award a pro contract. Vergallito was the odds-on favorite all week as the test races were well suited to his high power-to-weight ratio. In the end, Vergallito’s dream of turning pro came true with Alpecin-Deceuninck offering him a contract.

Becoming a professional athlete has always been an obsession and cycling has been in my heart since I was little,” Vergallito said upon winning. “I know there is a long way to go, but I am ready and I will do my best. I am very grateful to Alpecin-Deceuninck and Zwift for giving me such an opportunity. I will give everything to prove them right.”

Alpecin-Deceuninck is hosting a 60 minute Luca Vergalitto Zwift group ride with their newest recruit on Tuesday 20 December at 17:00 GMT (12:00 EST), everyone is invited to join.

Photos: Alpecin-Deceuninck, GFNY