Jay Vine confirms GC future with stunning Tour Down Under dominance

Three years after Vine was overlooked for a chance to race, the rising UAE star roars back with a brilliant debut.

Photo: Getty Images

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Jay Vine couldn’t beg his way into the Santos Tour Down Under three years ago.

Flash forward to Sunday and the Mount Lofty summit finale, and the never-say-die Aussie cyclist won the Tour Down Under in stunning dominance that left his rivals racing for leftovers all week.

“It’s incredible to win here,” Vine said. “Some people say I am making up for lost time, but I’m pretty happy how my career is going so far. ”

Vine’s steady but unconventional rise to the top of the WorldTour started in 2020.

That year, Vine was still an unsigned professional at 24 harboring WorldTour dreams, and he tried to earn a spot on the UniSA team, a development team typically loaded with promising young Australian talent.

Officials from UniSA — which receives an invitation to race each year — turned him down, but he found a ride on the Nero Continental team and rode to fifth overall at the Herald Sun Tour in 2020 a few weeks later.

“I guess it’s good I didn’t get a start in the race that year because now I can say I won in my debut,” Vine laughed. “I don’t know if it says anything about selections for the UniSA team, but I am super happy where I am right now.”

From Zwift to the WorldTour

Jay Vine celebrates victory. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Vine thought that his Sun Tour breakout would be enough to punch his ticket into the pro ranks. COVID-19 had something else in mind.

Just weeks after his Sun Tour ride, the world pandemic shut down the world in 2020.

And because he was not a pro, he couldn’t receive special permission to travel during the lockdown.

Stuck at home and unable to race in Europe, Vine famously found a back door into the WorldTour thanks to the online Zwift racing academy. He won and earned a pro deal with Alpecin-Fenix in 2021.

By the end of last year, capped by two stage victories at the Vuelta a España, it was obvious to everyone that Vine was the real deal.

Delivering victory in a near-perfect race Down Under, Vine proved to everyone that he not only deserves his spot in the WorldTour, but he’s quickly emerging as a major force in the peloton.

“I am not making up for lost time,” Vine said. “My wife keeps telling me to enjoy the moment. That’s what de-stressed me this week. I really enjoyed yesterday and today. It’s just fun riding my bike, and racing. That was proper good fun.”

Vine rode with confidence all week, punching into the top 10 on wet roads in the opening prologue. He surged into podium range by following the strongest legs into Victor Harbor and staked his claim for victory over the Corkscrew.

With the team protecting his flanks, he survived the crosswinds Saturday and defended again Sunday.

“Jay’s the strongest rider here, so it’s been easy riding to protect his lead,” said UAE Emirates’ George Bennett. “He’s got a huge potential, and everyone is excited to see what he can do in the future. He proved it already last year.”

By storming to victory in a Tour Down Under debut that came four years too late, Vine is also confirming his GC racing chops.

Sure, it’s only January, but UAE Team Emirates brought a strong team to support him and give him leadership responsibilities. Vine defied the doubters yet again.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we rode … that was world-class, and everyone behind the scenes helping me out. The team is just incredible.”

Giro d’Italia is next proving ground

UAE protected Vine all week, and he delivered. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

UAE brass are clearly believers in Vine’s GC potential and will bring him to the Giro d’Italia in May as one of the team leaders.

Vine now returns to Europe, and will race next at the Volta ao Algarve in February, where he will show off his Australian national time trial jersey at the individual time trial.

From there, it’s a slow build-up toward the Giro and his high-profile debut in that race.

“I am not even thinking about the Giro right now,” Vine said. “I know the Tour Down Under in January isn’t the most accurate reflection on grand tour form, and I am just building up for my season.”

Vine continues to prove time and again that he deserves to be in the pro ranks.

He didn’t waste time and was second in his pro stage race debut at the 2021 Tour of Turkey. In 2022, he was second at the Tour of Norway and again at the Turkey tour. Two stage wins at the 2022 Vuelta a España saw him comfortably in the King of the Mountains jersey, until he crashed out.

The WorldTour stage race victory here against a full press from Jayco-AlUla and the elite of the WorldTour is just one more confirmation of many.

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