Beyond the peloton, does Jens see himself involved in cycling? And what about the overwhelming interest of his fans which manifests in lists of Jens “facts” (in the style of the notorious Chuck Norris facts) and WWJD (What Would Jens Do?) coffee mugs, t-shirts and wrist bands?
Most importantly of all, does “Shut Up Legs” actually work? Jens discuss his future prospects and the Jens phenomenon in the final part of the seven part interview with Christopher Jones of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA).
BNA: You have mentioned before that it is great that you can turn your hobby, cycling, into a job. Where do you see yourself in a few years time? Heavily involved in cycling, such as a sports director or coach, or can you imagine a 9 to 5 office job?
Voigt: I don’t know if I could fit into a 9 to 5 daily job. Obviously it’s no secret that after spending 20 years, 30 years on the bike I have a deep knowledge of everything around the bike and cycling, so in one way it would be a shame to waste to waste all that knowledge. I worked hard; I paid with my own blood and skin for this knowledge. On the other side you may think “I think it’s a moment to switch and take a whole new direction”, but I don’t know.
The thing is, I have six kids so it’s not that I really have the time to play around and maybe go and study something, and after two years of studying decide ‘I need something else’. I would need to have a job relatively quickly [that] gives me a secure income in order to feed the family, so I wouldn’t have that much time to look around and try to become a rocket scientist.
I think if you look at it in a rational way it would be most the most logical thing for me to stay in sport, in cycling.
|I worked hard; I paid with my own blood and skin for this knowledge
BNA: Professional cycling gives you some luxuries – when you are at home you have more family time, though you are also away for long blocks of time. Would you have the pressure from home to remain at home when you retire from professional cycling?
Voigt: Of course the kids like me to be home all of the time, but somebody has to pay for the Playstation and somebody has to pay for the games and the little remote control cars. They see the necessity that I have to work and that I have to follow my job. But definitely I would like to have a bit more quality of life after I stop. That I can eat spare ribs whenever I want and not only once a year after the season!
My wife met me when I was cycling; that was 16 years ago and she doesn’t know anything else and neither do I. If I would stop completely and be at home every single day, all the time, I don’t think it would be good for our relationship. Once we had this moment of truth and looked at each other and said ‘I think you should look for a job that involves travelling a little bit, maybe not as much as now, but a little bit’. You cannot go from travelling 180 days a year to zero without creating any friction. I don’t say that has to happen but you are risking it – so less travelling and slowly winding down to get used to the new situation. You see it all the time, cyclists stop and they get divorced within the first year or split up or have trouble, and I don’t want that. So we should consider the potential problem there.
Photos © 2011 Paul Green (www.thepaulgreen.com)
BNA: Do your legs really shut up when you tell them to?
Voigt: I swear, sometimes they do. Not all the time, I cannot do this magic all the time. This mojo, it only works in certain occasions. But actually yes, they do.
Also, after I tell them that I say ‘just imagine the other ones, they are going to be twice as bad as yourself’.
BNA: How do you feel about the interest in you by cycling fans, such as being known as the hardest man of cycling and the Jens Voigt Facts?
Voigt: I am not a person who Googles himself. I f***ing hate that. That is so silly to Google yourself. I never do that because that shows you have no personality and you have no life and commonsense but yes, people tell me there are these pages. There is another one ‘What would Jens do’, people show up at the races with these t-shirts. And there is one you can count your Jens factor; windchill factor, headwind and the temperature and you can get the Jens factor which probably means the higher the Jens factor, the harder you are.
I think it’s a total compliment because people are inspired by you. That’s what we want. Yes, I like to win a race, I like make my family happy, I like to win money but it is just a phenomenal satisfaction and overwhelming feeling that you can inspire people. When people sit at home and go ‘I hate my job, but c’mon Jens and we just gotta get through it’. You go – ‘oh my god, I did that, I influenced his life’. It brings a bit of responsibility but it is such a great feeling.
|in the US, without blowing my own trumpet, I am actually quite popular
My dad is a man who has a lot of sayings, one of them is ‘Son, it’s about making footsteps on the path of life. If you only look for the footsteps of others, you will never make footsteps on your own.’ And that is what I try to do, I try and lead with footsteps on the path of life in the right direction, for good reasons. I absolutely love that.
Sometimes people send me the facts. Bobby Julich sent me some of the facts and goes ‘Have you seen that one – how can people come up with that?’ But no, it’s great and in the US, without blowing my own trumpet, I am actually quite popular. I think that it’s good for people to follow you through different time zones and countries. People look at you and see you as a role model. I think that this is one of the highest compliments you can get.
Sometimes I wish my wife and my children would realise this a little more (laughs). They just think I go out in this funny tight jersey and pedal a little bit with my friends and chat a little bit and come home. They don’t really see that it’s a dead hard job and really risky sometimes.
BNA: Are there any victories in your career that you would have swapped with a challenge or race that you lost?
Voigt: I am in a lucky position that I had a few good wins. Generally speak I am happy and satisfied.
But for example I have two things that come to my mind. One, I had two stage wins in the Tour; I would change one of them to winning the Li?ge-Bastogn. One year I was second behind Vinokourov in 2005, I would have changed this for a Tour de France stage win.
And then there is the Tour of Georgia  which is a relatively small race, and let me think how it was. It was a hill top finish [Stage 4], a nasty steep climb with 39:25 in the back and Lance was in the Yellow Jersey and in the end it was just Lance, Bobby Julich and me from CSC and one Columbia [rider], but he was 5 minutes down in the race so he didn’t matter for us. Bobby Julich attacked, Lance chased him down and I counter-attacked and I dropped Lance. I dropped him for 20 or 30 seconds, he was really behind. But then he somehow managed to come back to me.
At the time it was only my first or second year with CSC and I just didn’t have the knowledge that I have now. He came to me and I swear he was about to die but he managed somehow to get to my wheel then he was totally playing cool. He probably was breathing as much as he could before, so when he came next to me he was [blows coolly out]. He looked that he was so in control and that intimidated me. I went ‘Damn, he’s there, I cannot drop him’.
|I swear he was about to die but he managed somehow to get to my wheel then he was totally playing cool.
Later I saw pictures of us and behind me he looked like he was about to die. If I only would have been in this situation again, I would have waited until he came to my wheel and then sprinted. Make it or break it. If I explode at the finish, 5 or 6 or 7 down, who cares, but I think I had a fair chance of beating him, and how many people can say they did beat Lance. I am sure he was absolutely on the limit but he had a little bit more experience, a little bit more psychological power, he was a little bit more determined, a little bit more clever. He played it out and I fell for it. ‘Oh he looks so strong, he is unbeatable, I will finish second’.
So he won the stage race and I was second and I think I was so close to taking it. We even talked about it and he admitted he was about to give up – if only I would have been in that situation again I would try to change that.
The members of BNA would like to thank Jens for taking the time to talk with us and wish him a successful 2011 season and future.
Special thanks to David Halfpenny and Marcus Lathowers for support editing this interview and to the photographer Paul Green.
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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