Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

Winner in the mist: Jay Vine’s invisible Vuelta victory

We didn't get to see Jay Vine take his first pro win, but it was a sensational ride to a long-awaited victory.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

The mist was so thick atop the Pico Jano that we couldn’t see Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) take the first win of his professional career. And there was something almost appropriate about that fact: Vine had been near invisible on the lower slopes of the climb too, even when the visibility was better, even when he was riding away from everyone.

On the first proper uphill finish of the 2022 Vuelta a España, all eyes were on the bigger names. On Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) as he muscled three-time defending champion Primož Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) off his wheel. On Roglič as he drifted backwards en route to losing more than a minute to Evenepoel and Enric Mas (Movistar). And on 19-year-old prodigy Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) as he attacked Roglič and leapt to fifth overall.

But few seemingly paid attention when Vine attacked from the group of favourites with 10 km to go, bridged to lone breakaway hold-out Mark Padun (EF Education-EasyPost), then carried on alone in the driving rain.

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

For much of his solo voyage through the mist, Vine seemed like he was destined to be caught by Evenepoel, the Belgian putting in his best Grand Tour ride so far. But Vine rode brilliantly, measuring his effort to perfection, and ultimately won the day by 15 seconds.

To take his first professional win at a Grand Tour will be tremendously satisfying for Vine. Not least because he’s come so close to that debut victory on a number of occasions.

Vine crossing the line to win stage 6 of the Vuelta, maybe.

After emerging as one of the premier climbers in the Australian domestic scene at the turn of the decade, Vine made headlines in 2020 when he won the Zwift Academy talent-scouting competition. That victory earned him a contract with the team now known as Alpecin-Deceuninck.

He and his wife Bre packed up their lives in Australia and moved to Girona, and Vine wasted no time in making his mark in the pro ranks. In his very first race for his new team – the Tour of Turkey in April 2021 – Vine rode to second on the queen stage and ultimately finished second overall. It was a stellar result, but one that left him frustrated and disappointed.

After a fifth-place finish on a stage of the Vuelta a Burgos in August, Vine headed to the 2021 Vuelta – his first Grand Tour. On stage 12 he was the last remaining rider in the breakaway and was only caught with less than a kilometre to the line in Córdoba. Two days later, again part of the early breakaway, Vine collided with his team car with 35 km to go and crashed. But on the long, stage-ending climb to Pico Villuercas, Vine battled his way back to the fore, ultimately taking third place on the day. Again he’d been close to glory; again he was left feeling deflated.

2022 started in impressive fashion for the Queensland-born climber, winning the Esports World Championships on Zwift in February. Out on the road, though, the months that followed would again be defined by near-misses.

In his return to the Tour of Turkey, Vine again finished second overall (behind Paddy Bevin this time), after taking stage finishes of fifth and second. At the Tour of Norway in May, Vine continued in the same vein, taking stage results of second and fourth, and another second place on GC, even after a crash on the final day.

But when a rider is consistently around the mark like Vine has been, it’s often just a matter of time before success arrives. And arrive it did on Thursday’s stage 6 of the Vuelta.

Not that the day started well.

“I missed the break,” Vine said afterwards. And: “I had a flat tyre in the first 5 km.”

But after that rocky start, Vine recalibrated and focused on Plan B: attacking from the group of favourites on the final climb.

“It’s unreal to be able to do it from the GC group in the last 10 km,” he said of his win. “I knew Padun was still up the road and if I was going to close down the gap I was going to have to go long. I planned that I had 13 minutes [of deficit] on GC [so] that no-one would care if I went and I was able to manage my effort and pace the climb and handle it.

“I’ve been working so much this year after coming so close last year,” he added, referring to that third-place finish on a stage of the 2021 Vuelta. “This is for … my wife who’s basically done everything for me in the last three or four years to get me to this point.”

When Vine stepped up onto the podium to receive stage honours, he was again shrouded in mist. Again largely invisible on a day where the Vuelta’s GC battle came into sharp focus and its biggest names were in the spotlight.

But there was nothing inconspicuous about the way Jay Vine took his first professional victory, even if we didn’t get to see every moment of it. And if he keeps climbing the way he is, you get the sense that, weather pending, Vine will be plenty visible in the mountains for years to come.

Editors' Picks