On January 10, he came first in the Australian National Time Trial Championship and then, fewer than two weeks later, he won his first World Tour multistage race, the Tour Down Under. The Australian event had not been run since 2020 because of the pandemic, so it must have been special for both the organizers and Vine that it was won by an Australian. Australian riders also dominated the points classification, with Michael Matthews (Team Jayco AlUla) beating compatriot Caleb Ewan (UniSA-Australia) by 58 points to 47. “It was pretty hectic at the start,” Vine told journalists. “The team is just incredible. They deserve this [winner’s] jersey as much as I do.”
The race came down to the final stage, on which riders were faced with three climbs, including the final ascent to the summit on the aptly named Mt. Lofty. After stage 4, which was won by the French Cofidis sprinter Bryan Coquard, Vine had a lead of 15 sec over both Britain’s Simon Yates (Team Jayco AlUla) and Spaniard Pello Bilbao of Bahrain Victorious. So it was still anybody’s race to win.
Yates took off with 1.7 km left in the 114 km stage, and Vine and Australian Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) took up the chase. With less than 1 km to go, Yates was working hard at the front while the chasing riders were waiting for the right moment to race for the line. But Yates had the legs to hold them off. Vine was able to stay with him and finished with the same time to bring the race victory over the line. O’Connor finished third in the stage, at 2 sec.
Yates placed second in the GC, 11 sec behind the winner, while Bilbao held on to third place, 27 sec adrift. Bilbao also won stage 3, so he will be encouraged by his performance. Other stage winners include Australia’s Jumbo-Visma sprinter Denis Rohan and Italian Alberto Bettiol (EF-Education Easy Post), who won the 5.5 km time trial prologue.
Yates was far from discouraged by his performance. “It’s good to get the stage win for the team,” he said. “To finish on the podium and bring home a stage victory is a great start to the season.”
Vine said of his run in the final stage, “All I was thinking was, ‘Follow Yates, follow Yates, follow Yates.’ It’s been a great week. I hope to carry this back to Europe and keep getting some good results.”
That is certainly what Pogačar will also be hoping. The Slovenian will certainly be looking to Vine to help him up the prodigious climbs of the Tour de France as he seeks a third Tour victory and revenge for his loss to Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard last year. Another year of thrilling road racing has begun.