When the spectre of doping didn’t go away, the German cycling teams died as sponsor interest and media interest waned. Jens Voigt discusses the state of German Cycling plus the influence of Australian cycling on the world circuit in part six of the seven part interview with Christopher Jones of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA).
BNA: Germany is a leading cycling nation without a pro team; do you see a German based UCI pro team being formed and approved in the near future?
Voigt: Yes, it is absolutely possible. Despite a global [financial] crisis and Euro crisis and so on, Germany is still one of the wealthiest and most stable nations in terms of the economy. We still have a growing economy, we still have huge companies, global players in our country – easy we could afford a bike team. Now that the two German [TV] channels [will] stop broadcasting the Tour de France after this year, which I think we need to see if it happens, at the moment you feel that a sponsor gets a hard time from the press if they announce they want to invest in cycling.
Maybe they [sponsors] are ready and they think of the values they produce: the values of team work and a dynamic team, living together and training and riding together, winning and losing together. We could transform this to motivate our employees or we could see our whole team/company sharing these values. But maybe they don’t dare at the moment. That’s a bit of a pity. I think the biggest obstacle now is the way some parts of the press write about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have said it a million times; I am the first one to admit we did have a huge doping problem. We are working on it. It is getting smaller and we are not hiding it. Of course we need to report it. The journalists need to write the truth. Also the truth is that we have so many tests. We did tests for CERA two months before the Olympics and at the Olympics they were ‘CERA, I don’t think so’ and only from the pressure of the public, they retested samples a month or two months after the Olympics. Cycling already tests for the 3rd generation EPO and that is something that is not really published. But if they catch a cyclist, it is on the front page.
|As I said, we have to admit that in our sport we do develop a lot of ammunition that they are shooting at us. There is no denying that.
If the cyclists develop the tests for CERA, nobody knows about it. If they [press] write about it, they should try to be a little bit objective and be truthful and think about it. That is sometimes a little bit frustrating; that is I think one of the obstacles we are still facing.
As I said, we have to admit that in our sport we do develop a lot of ammunition that they are shooting at us. There is no denying that. You have to be stupid to deny that but… give us a chance, we are working on it, we are trying to clear this so give us a bit of credit.
It would be nice to have a German team. During our best years we had three. We had Columbia, Gerolsteiner and Milram and now we have none. And now the US have Garmin and RadioShack, Great Britain has one and you know, everything in life goes in circles, it swings up and down. Maybe we Germans we had our eight to ten years of cycling being popular. Now we have to face a period where cycling in not as popular [in Germany]. Maybe in 3, 4, 5 or maybe 10 years it comes back up. Sometimes you cannot really understand why it is like that, but that’s just the way it is.
Photos © 2011 Paul Green (www.thepaulgreen.com)
BNA: In international cycling, which young up-and-coming riders would you tip for the future?
Voigt: I would pick Jakob Fuglsang, but he is not really a secret tip anymore. He has already proven that he is up there. He is going to be good. Also Robert Gesink from Rabobank, I think we still have not seen the best of him. I think he is still getting stronger and developing so I think will be a hot contender for this year’s Tour de France. I believe so. Especially with the layout this year, a short Team Time Trial and only one more single Time Trial, because he is more of a climber so that plays in his favour.
BNA: In Australia there is a lot of interest in you as a cycling personality. In your earlier years you were with the Australian Giant-AIS cycling team, do feel that there is more interest from Australia that other nations?
Voigt: I do feel a warm welcome or a higher interest in me and my person when I race in Australia. As you mentioned, I did race with an Australian team, Giant-AIS in 1997 and we had some great times. We did races such as the Commonwealth Bank Classic. In 1994 I won it and did it a few times.
|Of course I am blessed with a little bit of talent but I actually do work hard for it and I think that is what the people appreciate and what they like, at least I hope that. Maybe they just think I am a pretty face.
I guess people down there like my accent a bit. Every now and then I give a funny comment where they just have to laugh. And also I think that they like that I am not an empty facade. They see what they get and they get what they see. There’s no faking or no pretending. When I race hard and when I win it is because I actually did work the most and when I don’t win it is because I just wasn’t good enough. I do not complain that other people were better and I think that is the reason why they like me. I am just a simple down to earth honest hard working person.
Of course I am blessed with a little bit of talent but I actually do work hard for it and I think that is what the people appreciate and what they like, at least I hope that. Maybe they just think I am a pretty face.
BNA: There is a new wave of top Australian cyclists coming through – at which point do you feel that the world should start getting worried about an Australian domination?
Voigt: Don’t they already? They are just killing people on the track. WTF? 4:10 alone – solo pursuit. It’s not that long that you would have won the gold medal in a team pursuit with that time. It’s f***ing unbelievable. Bobridge! Then there’s the two Meyer brothers, how good are they? They are as pure as gold. You can put them into my talent list.
|It’s f***ing unbelievable. Bobridge! Then there’s the two Meyer brothers, how good are they? They are as pure as gold
I witnessed the first wave of Australians, Stuart O’Grady and Robbie McEwen, and they were just dead hard riders. They paved the way for the others. Now everybody looks at the Australians and go ‘Yeah, they have got a whole bunch of talent’. But first for them it was hard. There were 3 or 4 in the whole of Europe; they used to live all over the continent. Some of them only had small contracts earning s*** money, living in s*** places, they really had to fight for everything. So they were really paving the way, making it easier for the next wave to come.
Still, Stuart is one of the greatest all time [riders] for me, winning Paris-Roubaix, Olympic Champion, Tour de France stage wins with the yellow jersey and he’s still there working hard, training hard. Still a really nice and valuable member of the team.
Definitely Australia has a big influence. It looks like the traditional countries like France, Holland, Belgium struggle a little bit. It’s the East Europeans, they are hungry, they come from nowhere. They are hungry and more determined in most cases.
BNA: So there really is a good future for Aussies cyclists?
Voigt: Definitely, and they [teams] appreciate it. People know they work hard because if you make the decision to move 30,000 miles away from your home country then you are focused, you want to achieve something. You are not doing it because ‘I just want to live in the sun, I just want to see Europe’. No, no, no – they know where they want to go and that is why teams like to take them.
Next Part: The Jens Voigt Interview Part 7: The Jens Phenomenon and the Future
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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