Credit: @Bre_Vine (Instagram)
Jay (NERO Continental) and Bre Vine (Step FWD- Suzuki) have been dominant over the lockdown months on Zwift, with the couple securing the SRAM Send it Series Men’s and Women’s titles respectively for AERO Racing. They then backed it up with final stage wins in the e-racing form of the National Road Series (NRS), which gave Jay the overall series win.
A couple that cycles together stays together, and it would seem to be true in the case of the Vines, who have not only stuck together during the lockdown-enforced shutdown of racing, but appear to be progressing from strength to strength.
It’s little secret that there’s cycling talent aplenty in the Vine household, with Jay Vine’s explosion onto the road scene last year grabbing people’s attention after a late entry to cycling and a transition from the mountain bike. Bre Vine made a similar transition, not to the same success as Jay on the road as yet, but she has found her niche in online racing, where her superior nous has garnered her plenty of victories.
Australia Cycling Insider caught up with the pair to talk about their recent successes on the Zwift platform.
“The teams that we ride with asked us when the COVID situation started to tell the other riders how to be good on Zwift,” said Jay. “I told them, I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but you’ve got to ‘get good’. Bre and I have been racing on the platform for two years now, I think I’ve done about 100 races, think it’s over 80 for Bre now.”
“I think a lot of people don’t approach it as normal racing, they’re happy going to the front and putting in a lot of effort on the front of the bunch, when really it’s about minimising your effort. Normally going until you reach a climb, putting in a VO2 effort, staying away and then sprinting at the end.”
Not that there aren’t any issues with the difference between ‘real’ and online racing.
“I said after the New York stage that Zwift doesn’t really favour attacking racing, and that’s probably where it can take a look to see if things can be improved,” said Vine of the virtual NRS race where he was overtaken in the final 100 metres. “If you take everything away then watts per kilo is the most basic representation of cycling, but we know that in the real world aero is going to be just as – if not more – important until you’re climbing at eight per cent or so.
“And if there’s some 50 kg guy sitting behind me pushing 250 Watts where I’m hitting 380 on the flat, he’s not going to be able to hold the wheel. In Zwift, I’ve said before that it’s probably not worth going off the front unless you can hold 1.5 Watts per kilo more than the bunch, which for me is almost 100 Watts.
“I think we’ve broken down some conceptions about Zwift, you don’t need to cheat or fiddle your numbers to do well. I think some people see some results or see one or two people in races and think that you have to cheat to win these events.”
Tactics and racecraft are something that seems nearly absent in virtual racing, with an inability to really control a race by team, shelter riders, navigate changing wind or set up a sprint train notably absent from the online experience. Nonetheless, tactics are present on the platform.
“Bre’s doing up to a watt per kilo less when you get the results flashing up on the board,” said Jay, “so clearly there’s some racecraft and knowing when to use your power in the best way.”
That statement is echoed by Bre, who has the ability to barely touch the front of a group aside from when she’s attacking and utilises the tuck position on descents.
“I’ve learnt more about racing and racecraft on Zwift that I have at times on the road and reading when to use my energy,” said Bre. “You’ll see the numbers change on the side of the screen and know that means you need to bump it up that little bit.”
Bre secured the recent SRAM Send It Series, run on Tuesday nights Australia time, riding as a part of AERO Racing. She came into the final two races of the series with a big lead and completed a comfortable win with assured performances.
“I was happy to have a pretty good lead heading into the final two races, as they didn’t really suit my style of racing,” said Bre. “I’ve found that I’m not so good at the sprints where there’s a big bunch that comes to the line and is well-rested.
“I’m a lot better when the race has been hard and it’s a smaller group in the sprint. That’s why I’m often the one that will attack on the climbs and make things hard for everyone else, because I do a lot better in that style of race.”
Bre is making her way into road racing, converting from mountain biking and initially finding it tough on the step-up to National Road Series level in 2019. She’s increased her FTP (Functional Threshold Power) 15 to 20 per cent over the last year,” said Jay of Bre. “The jump up from the top of A grade in Canberra to the NRS, where there’s two or three riders per team that could be riding at WorldTour level, that was a bit of a shock, so we had to reevaluate what was important for Bre as it wasn’t possible to compete with those riders and work full-time.
“Yes, I work full-time with DESE (federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment) and ride outside of work,” adds Bre. “I’ve set my own goals; to be attacking, to ride lots and enjoy it, also to ride with Jay on his training rides.
“We’re very supportive, and I try to be a part of Jay’s training and support to get to that next level. It’s really about getting Jay a pro contract.”
Jay Vine became a name that people talked about in Australian cycling circles with his series of attacking performances during the 2019 National Road Series, that had him sitting in the series lead before Jarrad Drizners eventually took control of the standings.
He more than backed that success up with his Herald Sun Tour performance, riding to fifth overall in a climbing-heavy edition of the race. The coronavirus-enforced halt on racing has seen Jay’s ambitions to show himself in overseas racing thwarted for this season, but he has made the most of his time away from ‘real’ racing.
“I’ve gone out a bought a mountain bike, just to keep things interesting,” said Jay. “I train 20 hours a week, going over 30 kilometres an hour and when you add that up, you’re quickly going to run out of roads.
“So, I do repeat a lot of roads, but you can really do endurance efforts on the mountain bike as well, and it’s a bit more varied and fun. That’s been a big thing, also not crashing. I used to have a reputation that I’d crash at least once during a mountain bike race, which was the main reason I stopped racing so much off-road as the injuries were affecting my road performances.”
When asked what she could say from seeing Jay’s preparation first-hand, Bre was effusive of his work ethic.
“A lot of people asked, ‘where has this come from, what’s the secret’ with Jay and how he’s gone,” said Bre. “I think what they don’t realise, and that I’ve seen, is just how hard he works every day. He’s been working his ring-piece off.”
“When she says I’ve been training super hard, I don’t think I’ve done any intervals for weeks,” Jay clarifies. “It’s all about getting out there, riding and enjoying it. So yes, I’ve done a fair bit after taking a little break, and the numbers are back up to where they were for the Herald Sun Tour.
“The difference at the moment is repeatability, at the Herald Sun Tour I could repeat that five or six times, I’d have a lot more trouble backing it up at the moment.”
In addition to his online successes, Jay completed an ‘Everesting’ (8848 metres climbed in a continuous repeat of a single hill), is a regular contributor to the Team NERO videos and together with Bre has an active social media presence. The Vine ‘brand’ is now a significant one within Australian racing, despite an absence of events.
“I think we always take opportunities that have been provided to us with both hands,” said Jay. “You’re right, a lot of riders you won’t hear mentioned at all during this period, and more generally probably wouldn’t hear much from them if they’re not racing.
“I think it was Adam Hansen that said that cyclists are basically living, talking billboards for their sponsors. Most of that comes from winning races and getting on the podium, but when you don’t have any podiums, what do you do?
“I think in the case of Australian racing in particular, it’s about showing to the sponsors that we are still giving value for their products, as it’s going to be a tough time for sponsorship into next year for a lot of teams.”
While next year might be too soon for Jay to expect a call-up to the WorldTour, he is certainly trending in the right direction. Until then, we can expect to see plenty of the Vines in action in Australian racing and lighting it up online.
By Jamie Finch-Penninger