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Australian Jay Vine earned his current pro contract with Alpecin-Fenix via his performance on Zwift, and on Saturday he earned a UCI esports world championship title with those same skills, coming around defending champion Jason Osborne (Germany) in the final 50m and holding off fellow Australian Freddy Ovett, who races for L39ion of Los Angeles.
A six-man break held a healthy gap in the final quarter of the race, and Australia committed two men in the peloton to chase it down. The six hit the base of the 1.8km climb with about 10 seconds’ advantage.
That group consisted of American Spencer Seggebruch, Canada’s Léandre Bouchard, Germany’s Martin Maertens, Norway’s Henrik Fjellhim, Belgium’s Jo Pirotte, and Austria’s Rainer Kepplinger.
At the base of the final climb, Kepplinger attacked with a feather Power Up to get a gap, riding at 500w (8.2w/kg).
The Zwift broadcast on YouTube, GCN+, and Eurosport would display the top 10 riders’ power output in w/kg, and time gaps if any. Occasionally, the broadcast would inset live video of a rider at home on their trainer, with their real-time stats on-screen showing actual power, heart rate, and cadence.
The 55km virtual course on the New York Zwift world featured 944m/3,097ft of climbing, much of that on three laps of the finishing climb, with pitches hitting 16 and 17 percent.
While Kepplinger motored on at around 550 watts in the final steep kilometer, his heart rate at 198bpm, Vine was going harder, leading the front of the group in swallowing up the rest of the break.
At about 300m to go, Osborne used an aero Power Up and his powerful sprint to catch and overtake Kepplinger. With 200 meters to go, Osborne had nothing in front of him but the finish line.
But Vine wasn’t done, and he buried himself to overtake Osborne inside the final 50m, with his countryman Ovett close on his heels.
It was work well-done for Team Australia, finishing 1-2 at Zwift worlds.
How the race played out
The 55km course saw a few early attacks on the rollers, before the big 1.8km climb, but nothing was sticking. On the second time up the climb, Vine opened up, riding at 9.5w/kg on the 12 percent pitch, and stretching out the group.
As the climb gradient eased to three and four percent, the riders were able to ease off the gas a bit, riding at 4 and 5w/kg. But the climb then kicks again at up to 16 percent, before flattening out in the final few meters before the finish line, which riders crossed twice before racing to it the final time.
At 15km to go, the day’s breakaway with six riders went clear and got a healthy gap.
Those riders would pull at about 6w/kg, and would sit in at between 4 and 5 w/kg. On rollers, everyone would be pushing at about 6w/kg.
Their lead peaked at 18 seconds with 13km to go.
Behind, Sam Hill and Torben Partridge-Madsen of Australia chased, with defending champion Osborne tucked in right behind.
While the chase group lacked full commitment beyond the Australian duo, the break had no such issues, as all six pulled through to keep their advantage.
At 6km over the last steep kicker, Bouchard temporarily came off the pace of the break, which still held a gap of about 17 seconds.
With 3km to go, the gap was 12 seconds.
As the final 1.8km climb started, it looked like Kepplinger just might be able to hold off the group. But within the final 200m, the hunters were upon him. And when Osborne blasted by, and was still pushing 650w at 199bpm at 100m to go, it looked like a repeat was likely.
Jay Vine had other ideas, and the Australian nipped ahead with 50m to go, securing a virtual rainbow jersey to wear on Zwift for a year.
2022 UCI Esports World Cycling Championships Men’s Elite Results