JENS VOIGT

Our race colum­nist on the lat­est events

Procycling - - Contents -

The Tour de France is over 100 years old, and I love all the sto­ries from the old days. Like when French rider Oc­tave Lapize shouted “You are mur­der­ers!” at the or­gan­is­ers while climb­ing the Col d’Au­bisque on stage 9 in the Pyre­nees in 1910. Or riders jump­ing on the train, and the old black and white pho­tos with riders smok­ing cig­a­rettes while rid­ing along. Things have changed!

Or how about my fa­ther-in-law, Hans Jaroszewicz? He rode in the Tour de France in 1960 and in 1961 and, de­spite the fact that I won the Ama­teur World Cup in 1994 and had a bunch of good results, he only ac­cepted me as a proper bike rider after I com­pleted my first Tour in 1998. And now his daugh­ter and I have six chil­dren, but no cy­clist among them. End of a dy­nasty, I guess.

My first Tour was the in­fa­mous Festina Af­fair Tour. Holy smokes, that was an eye-opener! Riders sit­ting on the road to protest, po­lice raids in ho­tels, riders in prison, teams fly­ing home. My child­hood dream came true, par­tic­i­pat­ing in my very first Tour, and then right in front of my eyes that same child­hood dream was de­stroyed and shat­tered. My wife and par­ents were ask­ing me what’s go­ing on, what sort of sport is that?

But I have good mem­o­ries too. We won the Tour with Car­los Sas­tre in 2008, and also the team clas­si­fi­ca­tion. It was one of the few Tours we brought all nine riders to Paris. As we stood there on the podium for the Team GC with Car­los in yel­low in the mid­dle, the world’s press in front of us and the Arc de Tri­om­phe as the back­ground, I re­mem­ber say­ing to my team-mates, “Boys we should all re­tire to­day, it can’t get any bet­ter then this.”

I’ve also got mem­o­ries of crazy fans. One year I was work­ing all the way through the val­ley be­fore Alpe d’Huez, de­liv­er­ing my boys in per­fect po­si­tion to that climb. My job was done and I got dropped. I was all by my­self be­tween the lead­ers and the pelo­ton. I had my head down and was try­ing to go as easy as pos­si­ble to con­serve en­ergy. Sud­denly I heard a voice scream­ing, “Jens! I love you! I want your child!” I turned my head to see who was shout­ing and saw this 55-year-old bearded man with the big­gest beer belly in the world. The whole crowd laughed and, as tired as I was, I had to smile as well. One of my old team-mates François Si­mon won a bull one year. His ex­pres­sion of fear when he held that bull and posed for the cam­era was price­less.

If you’re think­ing of go­ing to the Tour, have a great time and re­mem­ber this: stay safe and keep the riders safe. Let the mo­tos and the riders pass, and then re­mem­ber that the cars be­hind are a lot wider. I’ve heard of team cars driv­ing over peo­ple’s feet. Ap­par­ently it makes this char­ac­ter­is­tic ‘flupp flupp’ noise and I would as­sume it’s pretty painful. The sport di­rec­tors all flip the side mir­rors in to make the car smaller and hope for the best. They sim­ply can­not stop.

Ev­ery year 198 riders start the Tour and about a quar­ter of them don’t make it to Paris. Ill­ness, crashes, time cuts or pri­vate prob­lems take their toll. The Tour is great and won­der­ful but also bru­tal and un­for­giv­ing. It makes he­roes and can some­times break peo­ple, like we saw in the most thrilling mo­ment in Tour his­tory: the eight­sec­ond win of Greg LeMond over Lau­rent Fignon. The first be­came a hero and the lat­ter was never the same. Tri­umph and drama go hand in hand at the Tour.

Jens Voigt re­tired in 2014 fol­low­ing an 18-year ca­reer as one of the sport's most loved and at­tack­ing riders. He held the Hour Record for 42 days. Com­men­ta­tors never did agree how to pro­nounce his name.

I heard a voice scream­ing, “Jens! I love you! I want your child!” I turned my head to see who was shout­ing and saw this bearded man

Voigt with team­mate Car­los Sas­tre in the yel­low jer­sey at the 2008 Tour

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