Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) on the attack during stage 12 of the Vuelta a España.

Zwift Academy winner Jay Vine had a belter of a day on Vuelta stage 14

Jay Vine is riding his first Grand Tour, which also happens to be his first WorldTour race, and on stage 14 he climbed to third after crashing hard earlier in the day.

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Jay Vine is having quite the debut professional season with Alpecin-Fenix. The 25-year-old Australian triumphed over an International field in the much vaunted Zwift Racing Academy in December 2020. Eight months later and he’s a podium finisher on a Grand Tour stage.

The Canberra native’s debut was delayed by international COVID-19 restrictions, Vine only arriving in Europe at the beginning of March. He was cleared to race in time for the Tour of Turkey, and just five days into his pro career, he wowed the cycling world when he climbed to second place on one of the toughest stages of the race. While others would have faded after such a meteoric rise, Vine rode consistently with the support of his Alpecin-Fenix teammates, ultimately finishing the eight-stage race just one second off the overall winner.

Vine’s next race came a month later, this time much closer to his new home in Girona. We’re learning that the Australian expects a lot of himself – justified, as it turns out – and he was the first to say that his Ruta Del Sol did not get off to a good start. He suffered in the heat on stage 1 before crashing hard on stage 2, taking a chunk out of his leg and shredding his left side – an allergic reaction adding insult to injury. 

Once he’d shed his bandages and completed his recovery, the training began in earnest, peaking during almost three weeks of altitude training in Andorra. 

His next booking was at the Vuelta warm-up race, the Vuelta a Burgos. His best finish in the first four stages was 95th, but far from being off-colour, Vine surged into contention on stage 5, climbing with some of the world’s best to finish fifth on the hors-category Lagunas de Neila.

Then, just three races deep into his professional career, Vine was selected to race the Vuelta a España for Alpecin-Fenix.

The first week of his first Grand Tour offered few opportunities for Vine himself, but he did plenty of work for his teammate Jasper Philipsen, who took two stage wins before his early departure after stage 10. But deep into the second week, the young Australian finally got a few chances to ride for himself.

The finale of a very aggressive stage 12 saw four riders slip off the front, Vine among them. He led the race solo under the flamme rouge, but sadly the race was just 600m too long and he couldn’t keep the peloton at bay.

Two days later, and one day after announcing a two-year contract extension, Vine climbed to a spectacular podium finish on Saturday’s stage 14. There’s absolutely no denying his formidable strength on the final climb, but – again – Vine is the first to admit that it was far from perfect.

“What to say about today…,” Vine wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately [I] had a race incident with the team car, luckily it’s more my pride that’s hurt than the body. I’ve had a few stitches in my elbow and hurt my shoulder but looking good to start stage 15.”

The 18-man breakaway was all together with 35 km to go when Vine hit the deck hard while alongside his team car. The speed was high on the slight descent and for a while it looked like the Alpecin-Fenix rider would stay down. However, Vine was back in the thick of it – his jersey a mess, bib numbers hanging in tatters and his right arm heavily bandaged – by the final climb.

“At first, I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, I managed to sit upright and have the race doctor take a look at me,” he wrote. “As soon as I could put weight on my leg I got straight on the bike to keep going. Spent a bit of time at the medical car getting sorted, then I managed to slowly catch Demare, then the chasing group with Pidcock. From there on it was a small jump to the front of the race. I tried my best trying to motivate the other riders.”

With Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën) alone around a minute up the road, Vine was active in the splintering chase group behind. Then once Romain Bardet (Team DSM) had moved to the head of affairs, Vine was joined by Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) in the race for the podium.

“My only thought after the crash was (and I know I’m going to sound like a broken record here) but, it was ‘this is my opportunity and I’m not going to let it go to waste’.”

After the stage, Vine was treated for superficial injuries by Alpecin-Fenix team staff and has been cleared to start Sunday’s stage. With any luck, by Monday’s rest day, the young rider will have allowed himself to properly enjoy his sensational result.

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