Team Leopard is the ‘stylish’ pro tour team and begins with a head start: an experienced core team of riders and administration. Jens Voigt discusses the transition into the new team with new equipment in part four of the seven part interview with Christopher Jones of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA). We also get the professional evaluation of Shimano Di2.
BNA: While team Leopard is new for 2011, it already has a strong core of ex Team Saxobank riders – does this mean that you already have a well-oiled team and are ‘continuing’ your work, or does the new team also bring with it a new direction?
Voigt: I think we are in the lucky position that we have on the one side this familiar surrounding environment but still enough new input and influence to make it a good challenge; to make yourself be a little more alert, put yourself a little but more under pressure. ‘Ok this is new. I gotta find my place. I gotta to fight for my space.’ It gives a bit more pressure to be sharper again.
You still have the security of all of the colleagues you know, but it’s still new enough to give you a sharper edge you need to boost your performance. I think it is a really nice situation. Of course we still have some things which are brand new: new bike sponsor, new shoes, new clothes, so one piece is missing there or one piece doesn’t fit there. There are always a few things, but I think our people from the organisation or administration have done a great job. We aren’t missing anything, everything is there and the little bits and pieces we fix them. It’s good; I am surprised.
BNA: You are one of the most senior and experienced riders in professional racing this year. Does this mean that you are guaranteed a place in the Team Leopard roster for the Tour de France or do you still have to prove yourself?
Voigt: Well not that I know of any guarantees, and I don’t want any guarantees because that is the first step to slow down. Take it easy and relax and that’s the first step down. As with every rider who has competed in the Tour de France several times, yes you have a bit of a bonus because they know ‘he can do it, he survived it a few times, he was there when it was hard and sticky, he’s reliable, we can count on him’. But it’s not because I am Jens; for everybody who has survived the tour five times, six times, seven times, they go: ‘hey, I think he is a reliable rider’.
|Of course if you’re an old person, the young people don’t step back and offer you a place. They go ‘Look Jens, I like you but hey, I also want to go to the Tour’
But definitely it is not getting easier with the age. Of course if you’re an old person, the young people don’t step back and offer you a place. They go ‘Look Jens, I like you but hey, I also want to go to the Tour’. That’s fair enough, I was the same when I was younger; that’s how it should be. The young ones pushing the older ones which means they perform better, or step aside. And that’s just the way it is.
But I am not giving my place for free. We have 40 people at the moment and I am one of them.
Photos © 2011 Paul Green (www.thepaulgreen.com)
BNA: Your team bike sponsor is Trek. How have you found the transition onto the Trek Madone 6.9 SSL?
Voigt: It was an easy transition because the handling, the stiffness, the layout of the Specialized bike and the Trek are quite similar. They are both top of the line bikes and of course they are very good. If you go from a Mercedes to a BMW, the transition shouldn’t be too hard because they are both beautiful cars. The most drastic change was when I moved from the French team (GAN / Cr?dit Agricole) where [we] had the traditional geometry, the diamond (frame) with a straight top tube and I went to Bjarne [Riss who lead Team CSC] with Cerv?lo and I had the sloping [top tube]. It was the first sloping frame that I ever had. Before I used to go ‘What the F*** is that?’
|You are just looking at the other ones around you and are going ‘Oh, you poor thing. You’ve got no chance. You’re already beaten’. We are on the starting line and you look at them and go ‘You’re all beaten; I am just laughing at you.’
Then I had the sloping [top tube] and we changed from Look pedals to Speedplay. That was quite a change from tradition, from the normal 32 spoke rims, flat aluminium rims, to the high profile carbon fast wheels. That was quite a transition. The bike was so different from an old bike, but it was so fast. The cornering was different but on the straights it was so much faster. I swear on the first year on the Cerv?lo, with the wheels and everything, I felt like sitting on a sailing boat. You don’t pedal and this bike moves. You are just looking at the other ones around you and are going ‘Oh, you poor thing. You’ve got no chance. You’re already beaten’. We are on the starting line and you look at them and go ‘You’re all beaten; I am just laughing at you.’
That brought quite a transition, the geometry difference, coming from a steel or aluminium frame to a carbon frame, different pedals. The Speedplay system is completely different from the other systems so there was a lot of change, it didn’t really take a while. I quite quickly found the right spot, where to sit and how to move on the bike but it was more of a big change. Now from Specialized to Trek, the saddles are quite similar. We kept the same pedal system. Both companies have the aerodynamic rims so it’s not that much of a change.
BNA: Let’s talk about components. You are now riding with Shimano Di2. Does it really provide such a recognisable advantage as a professional cyclist?
Voigt: The last time I used Campagnolo was as an amateur; I liked it. Then I was forever on Shimano. Then one and a half years on SRAM and now we’re back on Shimano. Now we have the Shimano Di2 and I mean sometimes I am a little bit old fashioned. Who needs electronic shifting? But I have to say I am really convinced with the results. I was sceptical but it shifts very smoothly, exactly and very nicely. It is also very expensive, but it is one of the best you can get at the moment.
Next Part: The Jens Voigt Interview Part 5: Doping and the UCI
Stay up-to-date with BNA on Twitter or Facebook
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