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Jay Vine is a climber on a classics team, an Aussie on a very-Belgian squad, and a Zwift champion racing grand tours.
Although it may seem like he’s a fish out of water, Vine has more than confirmed he’s no fluke in his first season at Alpecin-Fenix this year.
Vine shot into the world’s radar in the most dramatic of circumstances earlier this summer.
The 25-year-old crashed heavily on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España before battling back to finish third, covered in freshly gauzed wounds. Many riders would have cut their losses and crawled home in the gruppetto, but Vine isn’t one of those riders.
“I knew I was injured and wasn’t sure if I was going to get back to the front group. A lot of riders may have just given up, but when I started catching the dropped riders I knew there was still a possibility of a result,” Vine told VeloNews of his dramatic collision with a team car in Spain.
“I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity – I had to make it count.”
- Vine overcomes brutal crash in Vuelta a España mountain stage
- Vine wine Zwift Academy finals, earns contract with Alpecin-Fenix
Vine rode through to Santiago de Compostela to complete his first grand tour at the Vuelta last month, despite having just 15 days of European racing in his legs before the race had rolled out of Burgos.
Just like everything else in life, Vine goes all-in on everything, no matter how unlikely the situation.
Learning the hard way ahead of bigger ambition in 2022
After stepping up to Alpecin-Fenix off the back of winning the Zwift Academy last winter, Vine set his sights high for his first-ever grand tour – hit a stage-winner’s podium, play a part in his team’s sprint ambitions, and actually learn how to race across three weeks.
“My goals were pretty high when we started the Vuelta,” Vine said on a call last week. “I wanted to go for a stage podium – I folded my notebook on four stages across the three weeks – but I was mainly there to learn as much as I could.
“I’ve hardly raced in Europe, and never done 21 days of back-to-back road WorldTour racing. I knew it was all going to be crucial for me to fill in the gaps to get ready for next year.”
Vine had only ever raced in Australia before he relocated to Girona this winter to ride with Mathieu van der Poel and Co.
He soon impressed on the hectic roads and aggressive racing of the northern hempishere, scoring second place on the the Göğübeli summit at the Tour of Turkey in what was just his fifth day of European racing.
Finishing fifth on the mountain stage of Vuelta a Burgos early August was enough to seal a contract extension through 2023 as Alpecin-Fenix looks toward a GC future with its Aussie climber.
As one of just a small handful of native-English speakers on a very Belgian squad, Vine and his climbing chops stand apart from the burly classics riders and sprinters of his pro conti team. But as far as Vine is concerned, that’s not a negative as he scrambles to learn the craft of racing on the narrow, claustrophobic roads of Europe.
“It’s not so bad being on a classics-type team – obviously they’re not going to be there on a 1900-meter mountain pass but they are incredibly good at positioning, and that’s what I need,” he said.
“They race in the bunch, that’s how they get their victories – by using the washing machine and keeping good position, out of the wind, protecting their sprint lead out,” he said. “They’re classics guys. It’s an incredibly hard learning curve to be able to do that.”
Vine proved he can climb with the best this summer, finishing in the lead group on the summit finish of the Vuelta a Burgos alongside the likes of Simon Yates, Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa and Hugh Carthy.
But he knows he’s got a lot of pieces to stitch together before he can become the thoroughbred GC and hilly classics rider he aspires to.
“It’s the lack of racing in Europe that I need to look at. I’ve never raced outside of Turkey and Spain. So, the Belgian races and the French races and the Italian races,” he said. “And definitely I need to go and experience the roads, because that’s another big thing that needs to be ticked off in my career.
“You can’t just throw me into Liège-Bastogne- Liège and expect me to get a result if I’ve never been even raced in Belgium.”
#getwreckedjay goes all-in on the Euro dream
Vine’s name and palmarès were initially inextricably associated with virtual racing after winning the Zwift Academy last year.
Nine months later, and it’s his on-road exploits that have gained him a more lasting reputation as he fulfills the total commitment, all-in, ‘#getwreckedjay’ tag that is found throughout his Instagram posts.
“’Get wrecked’ just means, ‘good luck, give it a roll’ in Aussie terms,” he explained. “It was a thing my wife said to me at an MTB race about six years ago. I got a flat on lap one, and she saw me standing on the side of the track. After I told her I got a flat she said, ‘get wrecked Jay,’ to encourage me through the race. That’s where it started and it’s just stuck. It works for me.”
With a two-year deal in his pocket and a new home in Girona, Vine is going to “get wrecked” long before he goes home.
“The goal was always to try and get a career out of this opportunity,” he said. “I’m set in Europe now and this is where I hope to stay for some time.”