HomeNews & FeaturesRoad CyclingJens Voigt Interview Part 2: The Psychology of Cycling

Jens Voigt Interview Part 2: The Psychology of Cycling

Is it purely physical or rather psychological? The hardest man of cycling shares the inner-workings of his brain. In part two of the seven part interview with Christopher Jones of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) we get into the mind of Jens Voigt.

BNA: Let’s get inside your mind. When you have made a break away, you are riding into the wind and it’s hurting all over, what is going on inside your mind?

Voigt: It depends a little bit. Once you actually do create that break-away, there is no time for thinking, you just go as hard as you can. Once you’re in the break you have some time, there is 50 or 100 km to go. Then you need to keep your mind busy. So often it is simply the last song on the radio that you heard in the morning sitting in the team bus. The last song you heard is just constantly playing in your mind again and again.

Of course you still concentrate on the race, ‘ok take this corner on the inside, there should be a little bit more drafting or maybe the road is smoother here so I can ride there with a little bit less resistance’, but you also have time to let your mind free and sometimes the most curious things come. ‘The kids have to go this event’ or ‘when I come home I should this in my garage’ and towards the end when it becomes more important you either want to go for the win with the team you are in or the peloton is coming closer, often I take a more aggressive way of thinking, a more confident way of thinking – If it hurts me, it must hurt the other ones twice as much, they are only human, they cannot go faster than you.

If it hurts me, it must hurt the other ones twice as much, they are only human, they cannot go faster than you.

If you are in a group and you want to drop them to finish alone; ‘There’s no way that they are going to drop me, there is no way that they are going to go better or faster or harder than me’. And often it works. For sure, everybody else has trained hard, everybody else has a good bike, everybody else knows about aerodynamics, about nutrition. Often it is just the tiny little extra in determination which makes the difference. When you try it one more time it intimidates the others ‘Oh, I cannot beat him, he’s is so strong’. Maybe you’re not, but in these cases I prefer to take action.

[Chris] Boardman once said “it is better to be at the giving end than at the receiving end of pain”. And that is so true. I prefer to start and give it to the others instead of taking a beating from them. If you have succeeded with that once or twice, you have this positive memory. ‘Oh I had this last week or two weeks or five weeks ago and it happened like this and this’ and I just do the same. You just have to have a lot of confidence and go ‘look, if it’s hurting me, the other one is going to be about to die now’.

Jens Voigt Interview: Cycling Technology
Photos ? 2011 Paul Green (www.thepaulgreen.com)

BNA: In the 2010 Tour de France you had a serious crash in Stage 16 and I am certain no one would have complained if you decided to withdraw. Was your decision to continue despite your injury something you did for yourself or the team?

Voigt: That’s a good question and I think it’s got to be a combination of those two. When I was lying there I was thinking, ‘No, I am not going to go out like this again the second year in a row.’ I said, ‘There’s no way that anything is going to come between me and finishing Paris this year’ so I also did it for myself.

I am not judging anybody and I am just talking for myself, but I would have looked at myself as a failure. I hate that. I hate that. To look at yourself like someone who has given up or was too soft or wouldn’t fight enough. I hate it. But as I said, I don’t judge anybody. You know it hurts like hell when you’re lying there on the road and everything is bleeding, blood is dripping down from you onto the road. I can understand the people [when they think] ‘I have had enough of that’ but in this case I said, ‘No, I do not accept defeat here, I do not accept this, I’m going to change this’. I’m a big believer of the theory that you make your destiny. You’ve got your fate in your hands and it’s up to you, it’s your responsibility, it is sometimes a heavy burden but it’s you who changes, who moves , who shapes your reality for yourself, who shapes your life.

I said ‘No, I am not going to go out and give up like that’. Of course you think about your team mates, they count on you and hope that you come back and that maybe they need you. Probably after my crash last year I wasn’t much of a help any more, I could give one or two bottles to them, I couldn’t really seriously do anything, but I was there. I was giving them mental support, ‘C’mon, we can do it’. Definitely that is a big reason, loyalty to the team; you don’t want to let them down.

Next Part: The Jens Voigt Interview Part 3: Cycling Technology
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The Jens Voigt Interview:
Highlights: The Best of Jens
Part 1: The Early Years
Part 2: The Psychology of Cycling
Part 3: Cycling Technology
Part 4: Team Leopard
Part 5: Doping and the UCI
Part 6: German and Australian Cycling
Part 7: The Jens Phenomenon and the Future

Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
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