Jay Vine turned pro with Alpecin-Fenix at 25 years old through the Zwift Academy Challenge and he’s already impressed in his first race for the team with a second place on the queen stage of the Tour of Turkey.
“I’m not really satisfied with coming second,” Vine said at the Gögubeli finish of stage 5 in Elmali. “The headwind popped me down but the guys did everything they could for me.
José Manuel Díaz (Delko) claimed the victory at the top of the 12-kilometre final climb, just ahead of Vine, in a dramatic climax that saw late attacker Anthon Charmig (Uno-X) caught just 200 metres from the line.
“It’s pretty impressive that we’re up there with only four riders left on the team,” said Vine. “Jasper [Philipsen] rode out of his skin. For a sprinter, he was there with me until 7km to go. The other two guys did an amazing job all day. They kept me fed and hydrated. It’s pretty incredible to be where I’m now for my first race for a pro team.
“With 2km to go, I knew I was in a pretty good spot. With the headwind I just had to wait and wait. The other two coming back, I had to jump a little bit early in the wind. I didn’t end up having the kick in the end. It was close.”
So close that Vine now sits just four seconds back from Díaz in second place on the overall.
“We have four second places as a team now, so we’re still looking for the win in that Tour of Turkey. We’re here for stage wins, we’re not thinking of GC at the moment.”
Vine sat down with Cyclingnews at the start of stage 5 in Kemer, excited at the prospect of getting into the mountains to show his climbing strength.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to the mountains. I know I’ve got the numbers. It’s a question of being patient and let the race unfold,” he said, foreshadowing the stage ahead.
He’s from Canberra and he isn’t your standard neo pro. A former mountain biker who finished fifth at the 2020 Herald Sun Tour behind Jai Hindley, Sebastian Berwick, Damien Howson and Neilson Powless – all WorldTour riders now – and then riding for Nero Continental. He was supposed to race with ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast in Asia and Oceania this year but got a last minute contract with Alpecin-Fenix at the end of December after he won the Zwift Academy Challenge, something he got a passion for during the lockdown period.
“It’s a lot different to Australian NRS (National Road Series) racing where the bunch is of sixty guys and even the UCI stuff back in Oceania is nothing like this. It’s so much faster here,” he said about the Tour of Turkey where he’s making his debut with his new team.
“Physically, it’s all fine. I had a good preparation over the [Australian] summer and I continued that on when I moved to Girona back in March. It took just a couple of days to get back into the flow of racing. I haven’t ridden in a bunch anywhere close to this size for over twelve months. It was a bit different…”
Firsts keep coming
Alpecin-Fenix brought Philipsen to Turkey after the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix as the fast man from Mol, who won the Scheldeprijs this year, still wanted to take profit from his good form.
“I never had to work for a sprinter before,” Vine explained. “It’s been a lot of firsts for me, this race… new team, first race of the season, first race as a pro, first pro race, first race with over 170 people on the start list, and then to be riding lead-out for, I reckon, the best sprinter here. It’s pretty challenging for a first go but… If you make small mistakes every day, when you go up against Cavendish, any small mistake will cost you. We’re learning.”
He was assigned a particular task during the team’s lead-out this week.
“I’ve been the first guy to pull off with about 3km to go, focusing on staying protected until the 4 or 5k mark, and then getting us towards the front,” he described. “That’s been my role and at the start of the race policing the breakaways, making sure there’s not too many guys going up the road so that we can control the race a bit easier.”
Asked how he’s been welcomed in the peloton due to his unconventional recruitment he said, “I don’t think anyone has any idea who I am so it’s great. I think I’m just looked at as another Alpecin-Fenix guy. We’ve got a lot of respect in the bunch. We’re coming with the best sprinter. I think we’re all pretty much equal, which is really good.
“A lot of the guys in the team paid attention to the Zwift Academy last year. I think some of them had some input in who was selected in the end. I think they respect that I’ve got some decent numbers. Obviously I haven’t got any results at this level yet, so it’s the case of showing that I’m willing to help them. I think I’ve more than shown that in the last four days at least.
Vine signed a one-year contract with Alpecin-Fenix but he’s looking to have a long future in the sport.
“I want a 10-year career,” he said. “I really want to be involved in the sport long term. I love cycling. This year I really want to race Il Lombardia. That’s one of my big goals of the year. I became interested in cycling in 2014 and two races caught my attention from the beginning: the Tour de France and Il Lombardia. They’re still my favourites.”