I really hope that no one will be calling Jay Vine a surprise winner anymore because the 2022 UCI eSport World Champion and Zwift Academy winner just won two stages of the Vuelta a España in three days. Both victories took place on summit finishes, and the first was even more impressive since Vine did it from the peloton.
That means that Jay Vine dropped Remco Evenepoel, Primož Roglič, Enric Mas, and everyone else at the Vuelta to take his first-ever grand tour stage win. Impressive is only an understatement, as Evenepoel’s performance that day was one of the best of the 2022 cycling season — but Vine’s was even better.
In this article, we’re going to take a fast-track look at Jay Vine’s journey from Zwift Academy Winner to UCI eSport World Champion, to dropping Evenepoel and Roglič to win a stage at the Vuelta a España.
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Vine’s journey to the top actually began on the mountain biking trails of Australia. He was a latecomer to road racing, only taking a serious jab at it in 2019. A few solid results got him a contract with the Nero Continental Team, but then the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to everything.
Without racing for the foreseeable future, Vine turned his attention to the 2020 Zwift Academy where the winner would earn a contract with the UCI Pro Tour Alpecin-Fenix team, now called Alpecin-Deceuninck.
In short, Zwift Academy consists of a series of workouts and test segments that pare down the field of thousands of applicants to less than 10. These semi-finalists then move on to a series of private tests and races which determine the five Zwift Academy finalists who compete for one professional contract. In 2020, the workouts, tests, and races were all held virtually, with Vine racing from home in Australia.
From the early goings, we could see that Vine had a huge potential in professional cycling, holding ~6w/kg on the trainer for more than half an hour. Here are some of Vine’s power numbers from the 2020 Zwift Academy which won him a professional contract with Alpecin-Fenix.
Vine – 2020 Zwift Academy Power Numbers
Test on Watopia Forward KOM: 730w (10.3w/kg) for 1:21
Test on Volcano Climb: 485w (6.9w/kg) for 6:00
Test on La Reine: 415w (5.91w/kg) for 37:00
Zwift Academy Finals:
Alpe du Zwift: 419w (5.93w/kg) for 34:12
Bologna TT: 429w (6.1w/kg) for 13:11
Peak 5min Power: 481w (6.9w/kg)
Vine went on to have a stellar neo-pro season with Alpecin-Fenix, finishing 4th Overall at the Tour of Turkey in his first-ever race with the team. He nearly won a stage at the Vuelta that year, despite having a high-speed crash with his team car in the middle of the stage.
In the midst of his preparation for the 2022 season, Vine lined up at the second-ever UCI eSports World Championships. The race took place at the end of February and was hosted on the Knickerbocker course on Zwift with a finish atop the NYC KOM. In hindsight, there was no one that could have beaten Vine that day.
I’ve never seen power numbers like this on a three-minute climb, especially on an indoor trainer.
Vine – Final Climb of the 2022 UCI eSports World Championships
Average Power: 606w (8.7w/kg)
Peak 2-min Power: 626w (9w/kg)
Vine was clearly in great form at the end of February – but Zwift isn’t the same as real-life racing. That’s what everyone says. But if you know anything about Jay Vine, you know that you can also be good at both.
Vine showed glimpses of his climbing form throughout the year, winning the Mountains Classification at Etoile de Bessèges, finishing second Overall at the Tour of Turkey, and finishing second behind a certain Remco Evenepoel on the summit finish to Stavsro at the Tour of Norway.
The stage was set for a breakout performance as Vine lined up for the Vuelta a España. But few could have believed the kind of success that the Australian would find in just three days.
Stage 6 of the Vuelta finish atop the Pico Jano. San Miguel de Aguayo, a 12.5km climb with an average gradient of 6.6%. This included a number of shallower sections and plateaus, so the crux of the climb came in its mid-section which averaged 7.8% for 6.8km.
Having missed out on the breakaway of the day, Vine came into the bottom of the Pico Jano alongside Evenepoel and the rest of the peloton. QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl paced the start of the climb before two non-GC riders attacked. With little hesitation, Vine bridged across to the duo and it wasn’t long before he left them behind.
With 9km to go, Evenepoel attacked from the peloton, taking only Roglič, Mas, and Pavel Sivakov with him. Roglič and Sivakov didn’t last long as Evenepoel was holding over 6.5w/kg. Vine was only 20 seconds up the road at this point, and with 6.6km to go, he had caught and passed the entire breakaway to take the lead on the road.
Vine would go on to win the stage 15 seconds ahead of Evenepoel and one minute and 37 seconds ahead of the group containing Roglič, Sivakov, Jai Hindley, Simon Yates, and Tao Geoghegan Hart. The craziest part about Vine’s performance is that he won this stage from the GC group. That means he put 15 seconds into Evenepoel and nearly two minutes into most of the GC contenders in a single climb.
According to Strava, Vine weighs 73kg, although I believe this is an overestimation. In his entire Zwift career, from the Academy to UCI eSport Worlds, Vine has always weighed between 68.8kg and 71kg. It would be a shock if Vine was somehow 2-3kg heavier for this year’s Vuelta when he is clearly in peak climbing form.
By adjusting his weight to 70kg rather than 73kg, Vine’s power numbers also match up better with riders around him, producing similar efforts on steep gradients when the draft is almost negligible.
Here are the crazy watts that Vine produced to drop Evenepoel, Mas, Roglič, and the entire Vuelta peloton.
Vine – Vuelta a España Stage 6 – Final Climb
Average Power: 437w (6.2w/kg)
Average Power from his attack to the finish: 449w (6.4w/kg) for 23:26
How to ride away from Evenepoel on an 8% gradient: 462w (6.6w/kg) for 13 minutes
If that effort wasn’t enough, Vine would go on to win Stage 8 of the Vuelta just two days later. But this time, he didn’t have to do it the hard way. Vine infiltrated the break of the day, so he didn’t have to outrun the peloton on the final climb to Colláu Fancuaya.
Vine went solo with 6km to go and won the stage nearly a minute ahead of second place, Marc Soler. With these power numbers, we can see how much easier it is to win a summit finish from the breakaway rather than the peloton. Keyword: easier, not easy.
Vine still produced nearly 6w/kg for 27 minutes, but he only needed to do 6.2w/kg to drop everybody rather than 6.6w/kg.
Vine – Vuelta a España Stage 8 – Final Climb
Average Power: 404w (5.8w/kg)
Average Power from his attack to the finish: 436w (6.2w/kg) for 17:21
Once again, Vine has proven that Zwift can identify athletes with huge potential in cycling. And just because you’re good on Zwift doesn’t mean you can’t also be good in real-life pro bike racing.
Power Analysis data courtesy of Strava
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