The storied rise of Jay Vine keeps getting better and better, and the wins keep coming quicker and quicker.
The 27-year-old Canberran claimed the first national championship of his career on the final day of racing at the 2023 Federation University Road National Championships, winning the Elite Men’s Individual Time Trial by 2.72 seconds ahead of four-time champion Luke Durbridge (Team Jayco AlUla).
Vine’s win was confirmed seconds after Durbridge crossed the finish, with wife Bre bursting into celebration and hugging her husband, who both looked shocked and quietly amazed at what he had just achieved.
The UAE Team Emirates rider ripped around the 37.5km course in a time of 46 minutes and 38 seconds at an average speed of 48.23km/h.
Vine’s ability and impressive power profile are no secret, but a less-than-optimal road race performance on Sunday raised question marks about whether he was near his best form so early in the year with loftier goals still months away.
The double Vuelta a España stage winner confirmed in his own words that he was “undercooked” for the road race.
But winning the national time trial championship has sent a strong message that 2023 may be a big year when he does eventually reach his peak, at what is expected to be the Giro d’Italia.
Durbridge’s teammate and 2023 Criterium National Champion Kelland O’Brien finished third 25.58 seconds behind Vine.
Back-to-back Road Race National Champion Lucas Plapp narrowly missed the podium by 0.85 seconds after his chain derailed on lap two of the course.
THEY SAID IT
(On whether he targeted the road race of time trial) “Well personally both, with big goals down the track this year I’ve really had to be professional and hold back a lot in the training,” Vine said.
“I’ve had to hold back a lot on the power work, so I’m stoked with that result.
“I came in really undercooked for the road race. The goal was to play it as smart as I could and you know, really race it as if I was one of the big stars of the day, probably knowing full well that probably coming into the last four laps I wasn’t going to have it.
“I mean the time trial is sort of my pet event from back in the day, but I just haven’t been able to go fast in a good position since turning professional so being able to get on a good bike with the team, and in the right position.
“And I can tell you what, there’s more improvements to be made, so it’s pretty exciting.”
(On how long on the new TT bike) “Literally 250 kilometres on the bike since getting it December 18th and just getting used to the position and then training up again,” Vine said.
“My goals are down in May, June – you can take what you will off those dates.”
(On long-term ambitions) “Of course, there’s always ambitions to do lots of things, I mean I’d just be stoked to just top-10 a GC (general classification) right now,” Vine said.
“I think I’ll take baby steps. Last year’s goal was to win a bike race.
“I did that twice so that’s the goal ticked. I was able to tick a big goal of mine which was to wear the green and gold already in my third year, so bigger goals are to turn more into a GC role but I just want to live this up right now.”
(On the feeling of being national champion) “I mean it feels pretty incredible. Like I felt good all day today, nervous like nobody’s business, tried giving my wife a few heart attacks last night changing things and this morning as well, but she kept me cool – it’s incredible,” Vine said.
“Felt like we went a bit overkill in our prep with the car and everything this morning, friends and family doing their absolute best for us – it’s good, it’s really freaking good.
“It (celebrating with wife Bre) was amazing, she DS’d (directeur sportif) for me today.
“It felt normal, like a club race you know out the back of Cootamundra or something.
“She was cracking the whip on the radio telling me to get my head down and stop seeing red.
“Certainly pays off to have your wife in your ear giving you the beans.”
“It’s bittersweet, 2.5 seconds or whatever it was, but I’ve been second before, and a close second before as well, so yeah, bit of fuel to the fire,” Durbridge said.
“To be honest (I) wasn’t really focussing on the time trial this year, but I got back home to Perth and the sun is shining and nationals is calling, so I get ahead of myself.
“And so I started to get time on my bike and got a bit excited, so I gave it everything out there and I’m pretty disappointed I didn’t get the win.
“But I mean, going into a new team for Jay, pulling on the national colours, it’s gone to a good champion – so couldn’t be happier with that.”
(On goals for 2023) “It’s probably the same every year, I want to win Paris–Roubaix,” Durbridge said.
“I’d love to be on the podium in one of the classics.
“Now I’ve got another big unit (Kelland O’Brien) on Jayco who’s a classics fan, so we’ll be up north (in Europe) rain, hail, or shine, giving the classics a go, and I’m just really looking forward to that period.
“It’s really nice to see young Aussie guys that share the same passion as I do.
“Matt Hayman’s leading the ship up there as well, so yeah, we’ve got a nice little group there don’t we? Looking forward to it.”
(His thoughts on if he has the right medal) Well, I’d have the right medal today, but on Friday night after the criterium, I said, ‘oh, gold medal for the time trial’, so now I guess we have the complete set,” O’Brien said.
(On having experienced teammates to learn from) “It’s a massive advantage for me to have other guys around me like Luke.
“I’ve been third here before in the time trial, and yeah, I guess this is a little bit, as Luke said, fuel on the fire for the coming years, but yeah, I look to learn a lot from Luke and the other guys, for sure.”
The expectations grow larger with every passing year for Grace Brown, but she continues to rise to the challenge.
The FDJ Suez Futuroscope and Australian Cycling Team star made it back-to-back elite women’s individual time trial national championships on the final day of the 2023 Federation University Road Nationals, winning with a margin of 37.89 seconds to Team Jayco AlUla’s Georgie Howe in second.
A surprised Brodie Chapman (Trek-Segafredo) finished third, one minute and five seconds down on Brown, adding a bronze medal to her sensational road race victory on Sunday.
Brown stopped the clock at 40 minutes and 58 seconds for the 28.6km course, averaging 41.87km/h, and dropping the marker down 30 seconds from her winning 2022 time.
It is the 31-year-old’s third elite women’s time trial national championship since 2019.
THEY SAID IT
“I always notice that there’s a little bit of expectation,” Brown said.
“Coming second at the world championships puts a little bit of a target on my back, but it doesn’t really change what I do.
“It’s an individual event and all you can do is focus on racing your best race so, I just get out and try and do my best really.
“I haven’t looked at my numbers yet but I think it was a solid race for this time of year.
“It’s always hard in January to produce my best numbers but I think I did a good race for this time of the year.
“I’m really impressed with the Aussies at the moment.
“I think Georgie Howe is going to continue to get better and better, and I better improve next year because otherwise she’ll have me if she improves the same amount from (to next year) as last year. She’s a real threat.
“And it’s awesome to see Brodie have a go at the time trial again and I think she has a lot of improvement up her sleeve as well.
“I’m happy that there’s people around pushing me to be better and better, which is what we need in Australian Cycling.”
(On the upcoming Tour Down Under) “I think it’s going to be a really good race,” Brown said.
“We’ve got mainly Aussie competitors. I think the international teams that are coming over are built around the Aussie riders so I think you’ll see the usual suspects fighting it out each stage.”
“I was really happy with the pace this year,” Howe said.
“Last year I got a bit overexcited in the first lap and I know I cooked myself.
“Whereas this year I felt way more in control. I have amazing support in both my coach and my team, I couldn’t ask for any better people to have in my corner.
“I had the fortunate event of racing Ellen van Dijk (three-time world champion) earlier last year and that was a really good test on a flat course – this is not a typical flat TT.
“But that gave me a good gauge of where I was in the world standings and I’m really excited to see what I can do with the support of this fantastic team this year in time trials but also how I can support the team in stage races and one-dayers.”
(On end of 2022 season) “It was a bit disappointing not to be selected for the world championships, but I had a fantastic time overseas and the fortunate event of being selected by Team Jayco AlUla for the 2023 and 2024 season and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this team,” Howe said.
“We’ve kickstarted a fantastic campaign and we’ve got a great vibe among the team, everyone’s in it for each other, there’s no egos. Humble and hungry for what’s to come.”
(On what she is most looking forward to in 2023) “Paris-Roubaix, that’s definitely the race that I’m really looking forward to,” Howe said.
“Can’t wait to get on the cobbles and test myself and help our teammates get up there.”
“I’m so stoked to get a medal at TT nationals,” Chapman said.
“This is a win for me – this is beautiful rose gold so I’m really happy.
“I was kind of like OK, if I can do a top-five that’ll be a win and getting on the podium with Georgie Howe and Grace Brown is so awesome.
“I’m really happy, I’ll come back next year now.
“I’d like to work on my time trial now that I know I’m alright at it.
“I’d like to now do all the one percenters because I was like you know what, I’m just going to go out there, learn my racing routine and get a feel for it to see where my limit is at. Now I’m keen to do more.”
(On long-term goals) “I’d love to go to the Olympics one day and I think the Australian team has shown that they really value people who can time trial hard so I better start now, unfortunately I think I’ll be too old for Brisbane 2032,” Chapman said.
The para-cycling, intellectually impaired, deaf and transplant time trials warmed up the Federation University Road Nationals time trial hub on Tuesday morning, with nine national champions from Saturday’s road races doubling their gold medal haul.
Lifecycle CC and Queensland Academy of Sport’s Alex Welsh was one of the nine, winning the men’s H3 (MH3) convincingly.
It caps off a great start to the year for the 31-year-old AusCycling Podium Potential categorised athlete, who has his eyes set on selection for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
“This year it’s building towards next year for the Paralympics, trying to do as much international racing as possible and do well,” Welsh said.
“We’ve had great weather here this week. The course was great, as usual, and I had a good time out there, it all went well.
“I was lucky to ride with Grant Allen in the road race. We had some fun out there, he showed me the way up the hill, and I tried to show him the way down.
“I enjoy Ballarat. The country city is great and Federation University does a great job in terms of facilities and AusCycling supporting the event. The course is great; it’s challenging – the hills are tough on a handcycle, but it’s nice to finish on a downhill.”
Australian Cycling Team stars Darren Hicks (MC2 – Norwood CC), Grant Allen (Port Adelaide CC – MH4), Candice Kennedy piloted by Kelly Fettes (WB – Port Adelaide CC), and Kaitlyn Schurmann (WC1 – Geelong CC) were also part of the nine to double their national champion tally from Ballarat.
The remaining four members of the double club were Cameron Marshall (AWII Men – Preston CC), Reece-Emerson van Beek (Men’s Deaf – Voga CC), Annaliese Hodge (WC2 – Brunswick CC), and Tamaryn Stevens (Women’s Transplant – Coburg CC).
Several that tasted national champion success on Tuesday were able to flip the script from Saturday, most notably Australian Cycling Team’s Meg Lemon (WC4 – Port Adelaide CC) and Men’s Tandem para-cyclist Steven Kemp (Kilkenny CC) piloted by Peter Spencer.
Both Lemon and Kemp settled for silver on Saturday in sprint finishes.
“As much as I was happy for Alana (Forster), I was a bit disappointed with myself on Sunday as I managed to get her over the hill, but had a bit of a moment over the top, she got back on and tactically did really well to sit on my wheel and just outsprinted me in the end,” Lemon said.
“I had a bit of fire in my belly to come back and prove that I could do alright today. (It’s a) good feeling!
“Today was pretty good, pretty cold to start with, so it took a little while to work into it, but the hill definitely warmed me up. It was a pretty good race; I put together a race a bit better, I had a few people to chase, so I was happy with that.
“As always, I love the hilly bits, but they bite you at the end.”
Lemon has a jam-packed 2023 on the cards, which continues in March with the 2023 AusCycling Track National Championships at Brisbane’s Anna Meares Velodrome.
“We have some racing coming up, Track Nationals and Oceanias and hopefully a couple of Road World Cups in April,” Lemon said.
“We’ll be away for the year, get some experience, and later in the year work towards Glasgow (2023 UCI Cycling World Championships), if possible. That’ll be a big event, but something to really look forward to.
“I think it (2023 UCI Cycling World Championships) will be really exciting and nice to be able to watch but also be amongst the ‘able-bods’, BMX, para, track and road.
“There will probably be a little bit of a community and almost be a bit like the (Paralympic) Games, but be able to actually see other events.
“I actually can’t wait, and for me, it’ll be a good thing, I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone, but each race you get better and you learn things, so I can only see it being positive.”