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Jay Vine lifts lid on daily grind of pro cycling: ‘It’s not the most glamorous life’

Aussie climber talks of horror hotels and squeeze on personal spending in his opening seasons in the pro peloton.

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Life in the pro peloton may open the door to the top of the sport, but it doesn’t give a rider the keys to fast cars and high-class hotels.

At least, that’s what Jay Vine found during his two seasons at Alpecin-Deceuninck.

“Pro life sure is not as glamorous as some think,” Vine said when asked by VeloNews.

“We have to [pay for] altitude throughout the year by ourselves. We have to pay for food. We have to live a life outside of riding bikes. All these little things take a toll.”

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Vine long leaned on his wife for financial support as he raced through the Australian ranks while chasing a life at the top of world cycling.

Yet, after earning a contract at Alpecin-Deceunink last winter and scoring two standout stage wins at the Vuelta a España this summer, Vine said life’s not all luxury just yet. The Aussie climber spoke of how he still had to scrutinize his daily spending and clampdown on fuel bills while spending his second season living in the inflation-crippled European mainland.

“Not everyone’s on six million like some riders in the WorldTour,” he said. “It’s tough, but we’re all working towards setting ourselves up so that we can retire comfortably in the future.”

No Vuelta celebrations until payday: ‘The credit card’s not that big’

Vine had to wait until the end of the season to receive his Vuelta a España bonuses. (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Vine switches from Alpecin-Deceuninck and its shampoo and window brands-based budget to the state-backed megabucks of UAE Team Emirates next season.

A ride alongside Tadej Pogačar in one of the peloton’s wealthiest teams will likely land Vine a pay packet that far exceeds the WorldTour’s minimum mark of around $40,000. But while riders like Pogačar, Chris Froome, and Peter Sagan command multi-million salaries, even the sport’s top support riders and stage hunters struggle to make six figures from salaries, primes, and bonuses.

And no matter how much or how little Vine’s bank balance is boosted in 2023, the daily rigors of training and racing will remain.

“The thing that you don’t see is the hotels that you have to sleep in. For example, I’m considering taking a mosquito net to my next race. It’s going to be packed in my bag as if I’m sleeping next to a dengue fever-infected river because of the number of times when hotels don’t have air conditioning. You open the window and immediately, mosquitoes the size of small birds fly and start feasting on you and you can’t sleep,” Vine said.

“Also a portable fan. I have to carry my own portable fan around in my suitcase because you ask ‘can you please turn the air conditioner on? And they say ‘I’m so sorry. We turned them off last week and we can’t turn them back on.’ I’m just going to have my little portable fan … thanks Zwift for teaching me about little portable fans!”

Rider Instagram feeds show training ride vistas, cafe stop latte art, and blinged-out team bikes. But the daily lifestyle of pro cycling is one that rewards monastic abstinence and locked-down lifestyle control.

“It’s not the most glamorous life. Trying to drink four liters of water in the next hours after a race before the next stage,” Vine said. “It’s a tough job but I also love racing. It’s incredibly fun and I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Vine will have seen some timely pre-off-season reward from his daily grind, however.

The spoils of the 26-year-old’s two recent Vuelta a España stage wins will have been taxed, divided between the team, and taxed some more in the end-of-year accounts as Alpecin-Deceuninck boffins take stock of 2022. And then finally, the champagne corks can fly.

“It wasn’t like I could go and celebrate those wins immediately, the credit card’s not that big,” Vine said.

Vine’s credit card will increase next season with UAE Team Emirates  – but he won’t be one of the few on six million just yet.