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Vuelta a Espana

From Zwift Academy to Vuelta a España glory: Jay Vine’s incredible WorldTour journey

Vine on first pro win: 'It was a dream come true, even more so because I've been so close so often.'

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SAN MIGUEL DE AGUAYO, Spain (VN) — Jay Vine went straight from the Zwift Academy to Vuelta a España success Thursday in dramatic fashion.

The Alpecin-Fenix climber, who earned a WorldTour contract in 2021 after winning a virtual racing series, delivered on real roads to win stage 6 at the Vuelta for his first pro win.

“It felt incredible. It was a dream come true,” Vine said Thursday after fending off the best of the WorldTour. “It’s even more special because I’ve been so close so often. I worked the entire year for this one event.”

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WorldTour dreams do come true, and Vine proved it Thursday.

Three years ago, Vine was dreaming of becoming a professional cyclist when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the international racing calendar.

The WorldTour calendar still largely unfolded, but racers like Vine at the continental level faced a bleak future at a decisive moment of his career trajectory without any races to go.

Fifth at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in early 2020 just weeks before the world shut down provided a hint of Vine’s potential.

“Two years ago when I did the Herald Sun Tour with a conti team, it looked like things were going well. Then COVID came, and the only opportunity I had at the time to race was to Zwift Academy.”

Vine won the online racing series, and part of the payoff was a real pro contract. Alpecin-Fenix signed him last year, and he quickly proved there was nothing virtual about his talent.

He delivered on the road across 2021, and punched his ticket to a grand tour debut last year at the Vuelta.

After some close calls, including second overall at the Tour of Turkey in 2021 and 2022, and second at the Tour of Norway this summer, Vine’s hard work and dedication paid off.

“The team invested in a lot of effort to get into a two grand tours, I am so glad to be able to pay back with a stage win,” he said. “My main goal was the team’s goal in the this race, and that was to win a stage.”

Vine: ‘I still use Zwift to prepare for races’

Jay Vine went from the Zwift Academy to the WorldTour. (Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Vine said he still uses the Zwift platform to train occasionally, but his future is firmly on the pavement. He thanked his wife, whom he said dedicates herself to his career.

“I am still using Zwift to prepare for races. I’m a bit of a softie, so with this kind of weather, I wouldn’t be training outside,” Vine said. “It’s really handy in that sense, a lot of my training is out on the road because the weather is usually good in Andorra.

“My wife is full-time supporting me,” he said. “It’s basically a training camp at home with myself and her. It’s pretty special to win.”

Alpecin-Fenix is more renowned for its success in the classics and the bunch sprints, but the team gave Vine the green light to chase stage wins.

He punched at the right time to catch the GC favorites off-guard on the flanks of Pico Jano, and he had the legs to fend off a determined chase from new leader Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas.

“I’ve been lucky to be selected for two grand tours, and you have to race smart and you’ll get your chances,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on winning today from the GC peloton, but if you got a bunch of guys who are good at positioning for sprints they can do it on the climbs, too.

“I had the confidence of the team,” he said. “They didn’t sit up when the break went. They kept supporting me all day in case in came back together.”

Everything came together for Vine on Thursday. His unique pathway into the WorldTour paid off huge dividends.