PEZ Rewind: Jens Voigt The Last Attack
With Jens Voigt now retired it’s interesting to look back at our interview from this time last year when our own Alastair Hamilton sat down with Jensie at the Trek pre-season training camp in Spain to talk about his career and his plans for ‘One Last Attack’.
INTERVIEW: At 42 Jens Voigt is heading into his last season as a professional cyclist. Throughout his career he has been one of the ‘strongmen’ of the peloton, chasing breaks, fetching water bottles and every now and again; winning a race. A nice guy with a punishing nature; no more “shut up legs” from Jensie.
We managed to catch up with the ‘Old Man’ of the peloton, Jens Voigt at the Trek Factory Team’s December training camp based in Albir, on the east coast of Spain. The 2014 season will (probably) be his last and for those who are not happy with his attacking style, the news will come as a relief. So we settled down to find out how he thinks his final attack will pan-out.
PEZ: So how is the form, Jens?
Jens Voigt: I’m not getting any younger so there is a little ache here and another there, but, no I think I’m OK.
PEZ: That brings me to my first question: Do you feel as strong as you did when you were younger?
Jens: Maybe I feel as strong, but less fresh. It takes a moment in the morning to get the engine going and when you first go out training the first pedal strokes are a bit; oh ah ouch! Yea but that the way nature goes I suppose, so there is nothing to be sad about or nothing to be worried about, it’s just the way nature goes and you have to live with it.
PEZ: Do you still feel like a teenager in your head?
Jens: Yes I do, when I got a new bike here I was all excited. I had a brand new shiny bike, getting new clothes, new shoes, a new helmet, and new equipment. It feels good, I still love it.
PEZ: How do you still keep motivated?
Jens: I think I like to be surrounded by the young kids; it helps me to keep young and stay in shape. I still do my job, as I’ve said a few times, I’m in a lucky position that I have turned my passion into my profession, there are not many people who can say that they love their job. There are some people who do it because they have to, others who are good at it but don’t love it. I do love my job. And maybe a little bit, now that I’m getting older, I want to reassure myself: Am I still good enough, do I still have it, am I still strong enough to keep up with the young kids, and it makes me still feel alive if you can answer the question with yes. Yes I can still do my job, I still keep up with them and that makes you feel alive, happy and satisfied.
PEZ: What about the young guys do you see a difference in them from when you were their age?
Jens: I was reading an interview in Pro Cycling with Chris Horner and he was saying that nowadays the kids all have at least two iphones, ipads, computers with 35GB of movies on them. Back in the day we had nothing; we had a FAX machine and a ticket would be sent with a letter to you, now we have e-tickets and all that. Life is faster, quicker, easier and some of the kids have it easier, but that’s the way it goes.
PEZ: But what about their attitude, years ago the young riders would be in awe of the older Pros. Whereas now, kids are not like that.
Jens: With me indeed they are, but then again I’m twice as old as them, I’m almost as old as their dads. So it’s up to me to break the ice, I say, “hey listen, I might be older than you but I’m just a bike rider, OK you don’t have to call me ‘idiot’ or ‘asshole’ you can just talk to me like a normal person, don’t talk to me like I’m your grand dad.” Then they smile and ease up and the atmosphere becomes more close. But the young kids do listen and they do ask my advice sometimes, or they ask about things if it was like this or that and training or simple things like the shoes, if they should put their cleats further forward or back, things like that sometimes. Yea I like it.
I’ve said before; a cycling career, in an ideal case, should be like a circle: you come into the circle at the bottom and you have people help you to improve and to learn and then at the top of the circle you are more selfish, you are a performer, you want to win, I want the loyalty of the team, I want the team behind me, I want the help of the team. Then at the end of your career to close the circle, you give back and that’s where I am now. I can’t win as many races as I did before, but I still know how it works so I can tell the young kids “hey, if you go now, it might be a successful breakaway” or “if you train like this or if you feel bad, look at your training from last year, look at what you were doing this time last year and don’t get nervous. You are a good rider, it’s in there, it doesn’t disappear. You might have a period of two or three weeks, but it’s going to come back, don’t get nervous, don’t panic and don’t over train now because you panic and you think; more, more, more, that’s also not good.
I’ve seen almost every scenario now, from winning a Tour with Carlos Sastre, to any possible crisis, so I’m able to give advice on nearly every situation and that’s what I’m doing now, giving back to young kids coming in and maybe in fifteen years from now they can give back to the next young kids, maybe to whoever…maybe my son.
PEZ: Do you think you will be a coach or a directeur sportif after you stop racing? Obviously you have a lot to give.
Jens: Yes, but not always a good rider is not always the best coach or director, like a super star would be a bad coach by saying; “what the fuck, you say your legs are hurting, what are you talking about!” Also some of the riders would think “I don’t know if I want to be with Jens.” They would think that because they missed the break I would make them ride back to the hotel on the bikes to punish them. I realise now that my son is cycling now; I’m easy, I’m not one of those typical tennis dads who yell at their kid’s and puts pressure on, I’m not, I’m relaxed. Every time he comes home from a race in one piece I’m happy, if he didn’t crash, it’s a good race. So I think I could control that, that I wouldn’t put my own expectations and my own attitude and expect exactly the same from everyone else. So maybe yes I could do that, or it should maybe be a mix of different jobs.
PEZ: Obviously you’ve thought about it?
Jens: Yea, I have six children, I have a certain responsibility, I can’t just live for the day and see tomorrow what I do next year, I gotta have some kind of structure. I think maybe I’ll have a combination of different jobs; to find out what I actually like and what I’m good at. I could be a director and after three months the team would be like: “oh, he’s terrible, you suck at being a director” or I think I suck at being a director or I just don’t want to do that anymore. It’s better to have several options and to see what I like and what I’m good at.
A day in the life of Jens Voigt at the Tour of Colorado.
PEZ: How do you motivate yourself on a wet, cold morning to go out training. You say “do I have to go out in that!” Or don’t you have those feelings?
Jens: Yes of course I have those feelings. The going out training gets harder, racing I still enjoy, I love being here with the boys and the kids, getting a new bike and being at races. But yes sometimes being at home training I have to kick my arse to go out; its plus 5, there is snow, a little rain maybe and grey skies, yea its hard.
PEZ: So how do you do it?
Jens: You just have to, my wife helps me or I just tell myself “let’s go.” Usually it’s the first five minutes and after that you enjoy it, it’s that initial moment to do it.
PEZ: So what are you looking forward to the most this season?
Jens: The end! No, I still want to be a good bike rider because I’m a bike rider and that’s my job and also I want to absorb all the emotions and take all the nice and positive feedback from the fans. When I race in Australia that will be the last time I’ll be racing in Australia and Down Under, so OK I’m going to try and enjoy that and Paris-Nice might be my last race in France and the Tour Utah and Colorado could be my last races in the US, so I’m just going to enjoy it. I’m still going to perform and work hard for the team, but I’m still trying to make it a nice big farewell tour/year/season for me. Without trying to be pathetic or all romantic about it, but I will try to enjoy my last season because I know I will never be so fit and that skinny and that strong in my life, ever. It’s sort of frustrating a little bit, almost, to know that, but it’s just the way it goes, you better get used to it.
PEZ: Do you know your schedule for next year yet?
Jens: Yes, I start in Down Under, probably Ruta del Sol, Andalucia, Paris-Nice, Criterium, Basque Country and later we will see, after it depends on your shape or if you have had a crash or not.
PEZ: Do you hope to ride the Tour?
Jens: I don’t know that yet. Well, the last few years were good in the Tour, I didn’t crash both years, I believe I performed in the way the team expected me, maybe even a little more. I mean they didn’t bring me the last two years to win a stage, they bring me to be reliable and solid, to bring 300 bottles, to bring 100 bottles a week to the guys in the front, to bring the rain jackets back and forward, to chase down a break away, to control the peloton a little bit, to take care of the boy’s in a crosswind, for the finales to make sure they don’t crash and stay out of the wind, working, working and I believe I did that. So I had two good years so maybe I should leave it at that. But then again as soon as you seen the start line it’s; ooph, ooph, maybe the Tour, I want to do the Tour. I’m just a cyclist, a red blooded cyclist, that’s my life. So I guess, yes, in the coming weeks it will catch me again and I will get carried away and I’ll go; “yea, yea I want to ride the Tour.”
PEZ: Any regrets?
Jens: (After a long silence) Yea, I should have been more confident early in my career, I shouldn’t have chased the early breaks. You know what, I should have waited and go with the big boys in the end. A little more confidence early in my career I think.
So 2014 will be Jens Voigt’s last season of pain, no more will he have to say “shut up legs”. He has enlivened many a race with his attacking style, maybe he could have had more victories in his 18 year professional career, but would he be as popular with the fans? Jens is one of the nicest and most approachable guys in the peloton and always has something to say. The peloton will be a quieter place without Jens. Good luck legs.