After a second spectacular summit finish solo win in the Vuelta a España in three days, Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has confirmed that his next goal will be defending his newly-acquired top spot in the king of the mountains classification.
Victorious in the rain at Pico Jano on Thursday after jumping away from the main peloton with seven kilometres to go, Vine triumphed once again in the much drier conditions in Collau Fancuaya, this time going clear from a day-long break.
But a crack at the provisional lead in the KOM ranking was also in his objectives. And with two victories in the two summit finishes so far and a bunch of points taken on the ascents preceding Collau Fancuaya as well, Vine now has established a 24-point lead on second-placed Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates).
Vine has even made some inroads in the overall ranking, moving up to 24th at 6:33. But the Alpecin-Deceuninck racer said that from here on, the KOM title is his most likely target.
“The mountains jersey is an objective, although at the moment, I’m not thinking about Madrid, I’m thinking about stage 9 and playing it by ear,” Vine said. “Certainly I don’t think getting in another breakaway without losing more time is an option. Today I was trying to balance getting points in the KOM competition with keeping enough strength for the stage.”
Fortunately for Vine, nobody else in the 10-man move on stage 8 seemed interested in challenging him for them, and as he put it, “I was able to mop up those points pretty efficiently.”
If taking those points cost him less physical energy than expected, Vine said that mentally he was not breaking into a sweat regarding going for the stage victory either.
“I had so much more confidence after that first win because I got the monkey off my back. It felt so much more natural when I was riding in the group today. The pressure was off me.
“I wanted to go for the stage, but I always the mountains [classification] to fall back on as well. So I had a lot more confidence in myself and I really enjoyed it. It was such a fun day.
“The challenge was not to lose concentration, have a moment where I messed something up like missing a bottle or something.”
As for Vine’s strategy on the final climb, he had shadowed the first serious move by a fellow breakaway rider, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), then taken off alone. The fact that when he went around six kilometres from the summit, he knew he was in for roughly a 25-minute climbing effort, very similar to the one that had carried him to victory on stage 6, gave him extra reason to believe in his chances.
“Lutsenko made a starting move, and I followed him, but after he pulled off, there was no indication he was going to be doing a second attack. Then after 90 seconds of going for it myself, I looked down and saw there was no wheel behind me,” Vine said.
“So I forced myself to get to the next hairpin, looked back and there was still nobody there. So I kept going.”
If having a greater self-belief after one stage win was crucial to locking into his second victory, Vine also pointed out that his team’s faith in his ability has played a big role as well.
“It’s pretty incredible. The team fully backed me before this, even at my altitude camp, they had said they had complete faith in me. To have a guy like [Belgian national champion] Tim Merlier there in the team meeting at the Vuelta when it’s centered on getting you in a breakaway most effectively gives a really big boost to your confidence. I’m just happy to be able to deliver.”