Friday Feature: Jens Voigt – Hard man with a soft heart

Velo’s November 2011 cover says it all!

Last week in the Amgen Tour of California, Jens Voigt had the second best time in the individual time trial – only Dave Zabriskie, a TT specialist, bested him. Posting second was startling enough, but the fact that the guy who placed third, Tejay van Garderen, is 17 years younger than Jens is even more astonishing. That’s a whole teenager’s worth of age gap! And in a way, it’s like Jens still has a whole teenager in him – he has more positive energy, more derring-do, more spontaneity and humour than anyone else in the peloton. The man has some fierce joy.

I’d been toying with the thought of doing an homage to The Jensie and after his ITT, it seemed as good a time as any. I’ve picked out some choice clips and tweets for this Friday Feature – let’s start in France, July 2008, when Jens was at CSC.

“You have a little taste of blood in your mouth”

I first started following cycling because of my friend Doug and I remember early on, before my interest in cycling became an obsession and I was still learning who was who, I asked him who his favourite rider was. And he said, “Jens Voigt. He’s strong, he attacks, he’s got a great attitude – he’s everything you want a bike rider to be.” And he’s still all those things. He might not have the palmares of some of the bigger ‘stars’ of the peloton, but he is genuinely loved by millions of cycling fans around the world for those very qualities.

“I was surprised how many people knew my name”

Other, more pampered, riders might have given up when, in the 2010 Tour de France, Jens’ front wheel exploded, causing him to crash. In the 2009 Tour he had suffered a horrific accident and had to be airlifted to hospital, and this time around he wasn’t going to let something as mundane as a broken bike make him abandon the race. Here he tells the story of the day he borrowed a child’s bike to keep him in the stage …

“I was just determined to get to Paris”

Tweet tweet tweet tweet

Although it took a while, last year Jens finally succumbed to Twitter. And what a joy it is to have him in the Twitterstream. Whether it’s tales of the ever-growing fish population at home (the kids started with two, now they have an ocean full), his car blowing up or his revenge on stinging insects, he uses multiple tweets to tell a long story. And he’s so expressive, you can actually hear him saying this stuff. It’s total Jens! Here’s a taster if you’re not following him already. (What are you waiting for? He’s here.)

Did you notice that one in the middle … it was cold and rainy so he rode for five hours and 160km. I repeat, it was cold and rainy … 160km.

And he even lets a film crew into his hotel room and goes through his suitcase for them.

“The genius controls the chaos”

Where does the time go?

Of course, Jens turns 41 in September and the question is how long can he continue riding? If this year is anything to go by, longer than most men. He’s still one of the hardest, gutsiest cyclists around, he still gets a kick out of meeting fans, travelling around and riding his bike – why should he stop? I know one thing for sure, the day he stops will be a dark day for the cycling world. But hey, his son is a pretty good cyclist … the peloton might not be Voigt-less for long. I leave you with Jens and Chris Horner reminiscing about Cipo’s hair gel and fax machines.

Two veterans talking about the good ol’ days

“Children, do you know what a fax is?”

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