Vine can win a Grand Tour, says O'Grady

Jay Vine's outstanding form this month is raising excitement in Australian cycling surrounding his chances of becoming a Grand Tour champion.

Vine won the Tour Down Under on debut over the last week after claiming the national time trial championship on January 10, also for the first time.

He is a prodigious talent who emerged through the online Zwift academy to gain a WorldTour contract and win two stages at last year's Vuelta a Espana.

Only two Australians have won three-week Grand Tours - Cadel Evans with his historic 2011 Tour de France triumph and Jai Hindley last year at the Giro d'Italia.

Evans (2009) and Jack Haig (2021) have finished third at the Vuelta.

Vine will most likely make his Giro debut in May with UAE Team Emirates, and Tour Down Under race director Stuart O'Grady was asked if he could win.

"That's a 'bon question' - potentially. After beating Luke Durbridge at the national time trial championship, he has the climbing and time trialling capabilities," O'Grady said.

"You never know.

"I'm happy to go on record and say I think Jay Vine will win a Grand Tour."

Vine's impressive win capped one of the best editions of the Santos tour's history.

The race returned to WorldTour status after two years of being restricted to domestic riders because of COVID-19.

It also marked O'Grady's debut as race director and he revamped the course, introducing a prologue time trial and the Mt Lofty climb on the last stage.

O'Grady was in tears of relief and pride when the race ended on Sunday.

"We shook it up a little bit. So far all the feedback has been really positive," he said on Monday.

"I'm pretty happy with how it played out, I have to admit."

The women's race also had WorldTour status for the first time, but it lacked big international names and a full roster of top-level teams.

It was a quality race dominated by top local riders, with Grace Brown beating Amanda Spratt for the title.

Women's cycing is expanding faster than the teams can grow and it proved too hard to lure a top name such as Dutch icons Marianna Vos and Annemiek van Vleuten.

O'Grady said the race would continue to make overtures towards the best women.

He also said he had spoken to the management of two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia.

The men's tour attracted a strong local and international field headlined by Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates, Hindley, Ben O'Connor, Caleb Ewan and Michael Matthews.

"We sent out a personal invitation to those girls and guys, but their calendars didn't quite align with what we had planned," O'Grady said.

"I met with Tadej Pogacar's manager at Tour of Flanders, to go back a few steps, and had a really good conversation about his calendar.

"We're certainly working with the women to do whatever we can, give them all the support we can and put on the best race we can."