“The watts are the watts,” Jay Vine says with the weary air of a man who knows that not everybody sees it in quite the same way. His talent as a climber was already evident in his first professional race at the Tour of Turkey in 2021, but his unorthodox route to the professional peloton created preconceptions that weren’t easily shaken off.
As a graduate of the Zwift Academy e-racing series, Vine was blessed with a professional contract at Alpecin-Deceuninck but cursed to have to replicate his power from the virtual format over and again in real conditions until everyone was fully convinced. Even when he fended off Remco Evenepoel to win atop Pico Jano on a sodden afternoon at last year’s Vuelta a España – cycling’s answer to producing the goods on football’s proverbial cold, wet night in Stoke – the last of the doubts weren’t quite allayed.
It was only when Vine repeated the feat two days later atop Colláu Fancuaya that delegations from WorldTour teams began to seek him out at stage starts and gauge his interest in a move, seemingly unaware that he had already discreetly brokered an agreement to swap Alpecin-Deceuninck for UAE Team Emirates at season’s end.
“A bunch of teams came and spoke to me after stage 8, but not after stage 6,” Vine tells Cyclingnews, imagining how the hesitant troupe of suitors must have viewed that mist-shrouded maiden win: “I mean it could have just been a fluke. He just teleported. Or did he actually cross the line? We don’t have a photo…”
The documentary evidence is beginning to mount up now. On Tuesday, Vine claimed an upset victory ahead of Luke Durbridge (Jayco AlUla) in the elite men’s time trial at the Australian National Championships, even if he was probably less surprised than anyone else. The numbers had already told him what was possible. Or, as he would put it: “It’s absurd to me that there’s still this thing, that it has to be done in the ‘correct’ competition: the watts are the watts.”
Those power numbers dominate Vine’s origin story. The TL;DR synopsis is that he was plucked from his living room and dropped into the pro peloton after winning the Zwift Academy competition in December 2020, but the full version is altogether more compelling. Not everything of value in Vine’s life can be measured and calibrated.
It began with a girl. Inspired by his father’s military career,…