Victorious Jens Voigt: “Age is just a number, apparently”
Taking win number 66 on Thursday, RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK’s Jens Voigt sprinted away from the breakaway with 5km to go and won stage five on the 185.7km/115.4mi route from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach stage in the 2013 Amgen Tour of California.
Voigt’s winning move came with 5km to go after being part of a 60km effort in the crosswinds that saw the peloton blown apart and the yellow jersey distanced from the breakaway group. Teammates Andy Schleck and Laurent Didier read the signs and originated the effort, with Markel Irizar, Matthew Busche and Voigt taking up the challenge to split the field. At 5km to go, Voigt smelled the possibility of victory and blasted off the front to time trial into the finish line, collapsing against the barriers in exhaustion with the win in hand.
“I think maybe the last time I was feeling good was when I was 21,” said Voigt. “But we had a close look at the road circuit today and saw at 125km into the race when the road turned just a little bit and the headwind switched to a crosswind that we could do something there. Markel Irizar and I were in the front to drive the break, and after awhile Markel said to me, ‘I think you look really good today so maybe you should save something for the end.’ I thought about it and agreed. There were some quality riders in the group. To win from that group, I knew I would have to go alone. I had hopes they would look at one another to chase me and give me twenty seconds. Once you do that, I’m gone. Once I went and then looked back to see the gap, I couldn’t believe they had given me 20-seconds. I said to myself, ‘Yes!’ It was pretty hard and I really had to dig deep. I’m a happy stage winner.”
Joining Voigt on the podium were Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Thor Hushovd of BMC. Taking over the race lead was Tejay Van Garderen of BMC.
“To cause chaos and mayhem isn’t that a good enough reason?” Voigt answered when asked why the Team worked to create the split. He continued on with, “Many times riders expect a break to go at 20-25km to go, but not so much at 60. They don’t consider that such a serious move. We had Matthew Busche in the top ten, so today we dropped the yellow jersey and we stretched everyone’s legs. Hopefully this will give us an advantage in the TT tomorrow. So making everyone suffer and be tired was part of our plan and to gain some precious seconds. It was hard work, yes, but no one ever said cycling was easy.” Busche moved into fourth place on the classification.
“Every day is a race,” said Matthew Busche. “We received some intell that there were crosswinds coming so we just stayed attentive in the front. It was hard to make it happen but Jens and Markel were so good in the front for me. We caught out some guys for sure with two days left to race. Hopefully tomorrow the legs are good and then again on Mt. Diablo.” Friday brings the individual time trial in San Jose at 31.6km/19.6mi before Saturday’s climbing stage to Mt. Diablo.
“I have been doing the same moves for a long time in my career, almost since the last ice age,” Jens Voigt joked, when questioned about basic race tactics he used today and is well-known for. “Sometimes, like last year in Colorado I did it at 140km to go; today it was 5km to go. They know what my plan is and that I cannot win a sprint. You have to catch them by surprise. That’s why it works. Sometimes they underestimate me. Today it worked in my favor. I will also say that I do still have some ‘go power’ left in my legs. Not every day like five or ten years ago. But once I’m out there and can smell the victory, I want it again.”
Asked if his innate racing sense is something he can mentor a younger rider to do, Voigt replied, “I have a big engine; I can handle a big work load. I’m willing to work hard. I think this instinct is just part of who I am. It’s hard to teach because the decision-making is done in just a split second. It’s like a voice talking in your head, saying, ‘Go now! Go now! Go now!’ And then listening to the voice. I try to teach the boys to be brave, be courageous. On Sunday night if you have some energy left, it’s too late. There is no stage on Monday. Get it all out now. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated.”
Last year after the California time trial which had Voigt on the podium in second place, he commented that he enjoyed every moment because he didn’t know how many more opportunities he would have to be there before his career was over. But last August he produced a stage win in Colorado and won a race in Germany two weeks ago, along with today’s win, making podiums look like a regular thing for 41-year old Voigt.
“I like to call this the ‘Indian Summer’ of my career, not the twilight,” he laughed. “Think how beautiful it is in Indian Summer. That’s where I am, in the Indian Summer of my career. Yes, I hate to admit it, I am getting older, and my career will come to an end one day. For the second year in a row I am the oldest licensed holder in the world. The oldest bike rider! But age is just a number, apparently. I think that you can’t only talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you can do that, there is no reason to stop or slow down or give it up.” Asked about earning himself another year’s contract with the win, he answered an emphatic, “I hope so! If someone asks me if I am ready to sign again for another year, I say ‘Hell yeah!’”