We better get familiar with watching Jay Vine win bike races
The Australian now leads the Vuelta's mountain classification
No matter the sport, so many contracts are signed based off one umbrella term: potential.
An athlete might have good numbers or impressive skills, and might promise to become a star, but converting that talent and potential into something concrete and successful is a task that the majority fail to do.
Jay Vine knows all about this. Aged 25, the Australian was still knocking around his country's racing scene, impressing domestically but not quite doing enough to earn the professional contract that he so craved.
Then, ahead of the 2021 season, he signed up for Zwift Academy, and his power figures based off the virtual training platform earned him a contract with the ProTour team now known as Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Vine still had to show his worth: competing in WorldTour races is a challenge that only a very small pool of riders across the world are capable of doing.
In his first outing, the Tour of Turkey, his new team entrusted him as their leader. He had never even met his teammates before. He finished second.
Sixteen months later, Vine has just won his second stage of the Vuelta a España in three days, triumphing at the top of two savage climbs, displaying watts per kilo numbers that put him at the top table of cycling's current superstars. Figures that match those of Jonas Vingegaard, the recent winner of the Tour de France.
It's not quite a fairytale story because that would imply that Vine has a lot of luck to reach this point; the opposite is true. Of course, he's had fortune, but Vine has worked damned hard for his glory.
It is instead a wonderful tale of how perseverance, a little bit of luck, and immense talent has propelled Vine into the cycling spotlight.
His victory on stage eight of the Vuelta, atop a narrow, brutal goat track that goes by the name of Colláu Fancuaya, was so dominant that the breakaway riders he attacked have won 11 Grand Tour stages between them.
They could nothing against Vine, though, just as the race's GC stars Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas were unable to pass him on stage six.
Vine may be new on the scene, but he's emerging as one of the world's best climbers, the new favourite for the mountain's classification in this race that he now leads, and almost certainly destined to have a future as GC rider himself.
It's little wonder that he's about to treat himself to new a Corvette. "It is pretty incredible," he said in disbelief after his latest win, before quipping that so big was his time gap he was able to savour the final few metres and get a nice photo, something he was unable to do on Thursday because of the dense fog.
"The first one I was disappointed that I didn't get a photo, so I I had to come back and get that! Gianni [Vermeersch, teammate] wanted the bottle of champagne too, because that was lost in the bin [on stage six] so I had to go get that as well."
Vine's humour reflects a man comfortable in his surroundings. "The team fully backed me," he revealed. "Even before the Vuelta in my altitude camp, they had full faith in me.
"It's pretty incredible when you are on a team with [sprinter] Tim Merlier and you have the team meeting centred around getting you in the breakaway and trying to secure that as an option."
On an incredibly tough day out in the mountains of Asturias, Vine mopped up maximum points in the KoM classification and now has 40 points; Marc Soler, in second, is on 16. Vine's in pole position for a spot on the podium in Madrid.
"I was trying to balance getting points in the KoM as well as saving enough energy for the finish," he explained. "I think after the first two climbs I knew where I stood with the other guys in the break - they didn't really care about the KoM points so I was able to just mop those up as efficiently as possible."
For a man whose story is symbolic with home training, it's pleasing to read how much he enjoyed the terrain. "I really had fun racing my bike today," he smiled. "The descents were really fun," he added, sounding like an excited child.
"And then the flat sections with FDJ and [Mads] Pedersen pulling like trucks... it was fast! A really awesome day."
Watts per kilo chat may be boring cycling jargon, but it's a very clear measurement of a rider's capabilities. Vine is backing his numbers up with race-winning results on one of the biggest stages in the sport.
Vine's just arrived - but he here's to stay. What does the next chapter in this great story consist of?
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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