In the first mountain stage of this year’s Vuelta, Australian Jay Vine did one of the best climbing performances of 2022. The Alpecin-Deceuninck rider attacked early in the rain on the Pico Jano climb from the peloton, before the GC contenders began to battle. Evenepoel surged some minutes later, dropping every single rider from his wheel one by one except for a valiant Enric Mas. Vine soloed to his first pro win, and whilst Evenepoel could not catch the 2020 Zwift Academy winner, he put serious time into many of his rivals.
This was one of the hardest stages in this year’s Vuelta. 181.7 kilometres and more than 4000 metres of climbing. Mark Padun was by far the best climber in the 10 man breakaway, dropping everyone on the penultimate climb of the day, Collada de Brenes (6.2 km, 8.7%). Padun quickly gained a big gap and even was around 30 seconds faster than the peloton on Brenes, where Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl was pacing for Remco Evenepoel. The Belgian squad where confident in their leader but unfortunately for Padun, INEOS had closed the gap to the breakaway before the climb with Turner and Plapp.
Whilst Padun was climbing well, the Ukrainian lost 59 seconds to the peloton on the wet and dangerous Brenes descent. This was similar to Criterium du Dauphine stage 8 2021, where Padun quickly dropped other breakaway riders on Joux Plane and rode solo to the finish with a comfortable margin, but this time after the descent there still was a big climb with a motivated GC group behind.
Pico Jano was the last climb of the day which Padun started with a 55-second gap over the peloton after pulling hard in the valley to maintain the gap against Julian Alaphilippe pacing for Evenepoel.
Alaphilippe and Masnada (who had been in the breakaway as a satellite rider) pulled the initial part of Pico Jano, but suddenly their pacing stopped and Evenepoel did not immediately attack. Multiple non GC favourites, Villella and Vine attacked the peloton.
No one from the GC riders reacted initially until the group exploded when Simon Yates decided to accelerate and strung out the peloton. Ben O’Connor closed the gap and everyone probably would have slowed if not for Evenepoel who decided that was the moment to attack, going full-gas with every GC contender trying their best to stay on his wheel.
Evenepoel like in previous races this year, San Sebastian Classic and Tour of Norway stage 3, set his tempo and gradually dropped his rivals. Sivakov and Roglič were the last ones to drop, with only Enric Mas strong enough to hold the Belgian’s wheel on an 8% section which lasted until the middle flat section of Pico Jano.
The major question left was could Evenepoel catch Vine, who was hard to see due to the thick fog. The Australian in the end won the stage, despite Evenepoel chasing him full gas, winning by 15 seconds to Evenepoel and 1:37 to the Roglic GC group. This was the first pro win of Vine’s career. Both Evenepoel and Vine did great climbing performances already in Tour of Norway stage 3 2022, where the Belgian won but this time it was Vine who was faster. Evenepoel after the stage even said he did one of his best efforts ever.
Evenepoel becomes the new GC leader, taking the red jersey from Rudy Molard. The pre-race favourite Primož Roglič lost 82 seconds to Evenepoel on Pico Jano and now is more than a minute behind the Belgian.
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All watts and times are calculated accounting for wind, draft and temperature at a standard etalon weight of 60kg. We use etalon w/kg so that comparisons between riders of different weights are fair. This is because, for example, a 70kg rider will go faster than a 60kg rider on a 7% climb even if both do the exact same w/kg. Vine, in this case, is quite a bit heavier than 60kg, which means that his unadjusted actual w/kg will be lower than his 60kg etalon w/kg. Also note that the flat part of Pico Jano in the middle makes the w/kg estimations quite difficult, so it is possible that Vine’s w/kg are a bit higher.
Vine did one of the best climbing performances of recent years. We estimate that Vine produced 6.58 w/kg for 29:53 min, which is a world class performance. We estimated that Enric Mas, who was drafting behind Evenepoel the entire climb, did 0.24 w/kg less than the Belgian as the climb was not extremely steep and there were shallower sections.
Remco Evenepoel practically did the same performance as in Tour of Norway stage 3 on the Gaustatoppen – Stavsro climb – both efforts are estimated at 6.50 w/kg for around 30 minutes long. About the Tour of Norway you can read more in this article and below you can see how it compares to his other performances, most of which are significantly longer or shorter.
There are not many great climbing performances by Jay Vine in road races, but he has pushed good watts on a few occasions. In his neo-pro year in 2021 he finished 5th on Lagunas de Neila in Vuelta a Burgos and 3rd in a Vuelta a España mountain top finish despite crashing and nearly being run over by his team car. The Zwift Academy winner already proved to everyone on Tour of Norway this year that he is an elite climber, but as the race was not World-Tour level, there were doubts, but winning a mountain stage in a grand-tour from the peloton, whilst putting over one minute into the main GC group, is a very special performance. Below you can see how Vine’s peak performances compare to Vingegaard’s bests.
Of course, a Grand Tour is not won by the first mountain top finish, especially with today’s cool rainy weather not guaranteed to continue. Evenepoel has the advantage over most of the GC contenders in the flat Elche time trial but there is still a long way until Madrid.