Jay Vine was already making an impression in his grand tour debut even before overcoming a brutal crash in Saturday’s 14th stage at the Vuelta a España.
The 25-year-old Australian — who vaulted from the Zwift Academy to the WorldTour this season — came within 500m of victory Thursday in Córdoba, and was poised for a strong ride Saturday when he tangled up with his team car when he went back for a bidón, and slammed to the ground with about 45km to go.
Also read: Vine, Bradbury win Zwift Academy finals
TV images captured the severity of the fall. Vine seemed to loose balance as the water bottle was being passed up, and he leaned into the team car, then slammed down on his right side.
Though he was attended to by race doctors, few details were immediately available about his condition. There were no calls over the race radio about him pulling out of the race, and TV images moved on to the front of the race.
Jay Vine is back in the chasing group after being almost ran over his team car. One of the craziest and most unlikely comebacks I've ever seen. @JayVine3 , you are officially MAD! 👏 #LaVuelta21 pic.twitter.com/ownKvcERhA
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) August 28, 2021
Incredibly, just as the leading bunch edged onto the final climb up the Cat. 1 Pico Villuercas, Vine suddenly was back in the frame.
Riding with tears and rips in his jersey and bib and a bandage on his arm, Vine stayed with the accelerations of the leading riders. The Canberra climber couldn’t match stage-winner Romain Bardet (DSM) when he attacked, but he stayed with Spanish climber Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) to finish third.
The result is Vine’s best so far in 2021, coming on the heels of fifth in the “queen” stage to Lagunas de Neila at the Vuelta a Burgos before the Vuelta started. Vine was also second overall in the Tour of Turkey, and came close to victory in Córdoba when he nearly held off the chasing bunch from a breakaway.
“It was probably the closest I’ve been in the situation,” Vine said at the start Friday. “The toll of the last couple of days of racing took it out of everyone’s legs, and a full commitment from BikeExchange, and we might have been able to make it. I’m really happy with the performance, and I am learning every day.”
Vine is no newbie to bike racing, but he is a freshman to WorldTour-level racing in Europe in 2021.
Last year, Vine won the Zwift Academy competition, and punched his ticket to Europe, with Alpecin-Fenix offering him a contract.
After bouncing around Australian racing, Vine used the unique opportunity to prove himself via “virtual racing,” won the competition, and packed his bags for Spain.
“Everyone from the get-go has put their faith in me, and myself backing them,” Vine said Friday. “We are working really well as a team, and looking forward what we can do in future stages.”
Vine has proven he deserves his spot in the European peloton.
Even before Saturday’s heroics, Alpecin-Fenix agreed to sign Vine to a two-year contract extension through 2023.
Vine is in Europe to stay.
This guy… No stage win, no combativity award, but definitely our hero of the day! 🙏 pic.twitter.com/5c7C8zF4Ba
— Alpecin-Fenix Cycling Team (@AlpecinFenix) August 28, 2021