The text came in late.
If you’d like to ride with Jens Voit, we roll from the shop at 8:30 AM.
Jens was attending a local bike shop’s grand opening and the owner was asking a handful of us if we wanted to ride with a legend of cycling. Uh . . . yes! There are a few cyclists who make an impact in the sport who will not soon be forgotten, if ever. Although Jens Voit has many accomplishments, he is one of those rare riders who made a huge impact without a Yellow Jersey and fondly remembered for his soul-crushing breakaways. Jens is also tied at 17 Tour de France appearances with the likes of dudes named Stuart O’Grady and George Hincapie, only to be outdone by Sylvain Chavanel. He also has a nice resume’:
- The Hour Record at 51.110 kmh (’14)
5x GC Critérium International (’09, ’08, ’07, ’04, ’99)
2x GC Tour of Germany (’07, ’06)
3x GC International Bayern Rundfarht (’04, ’01, ’00)
GC Tour de Pologne (’08)
3x One day race Baden -Baden (’05, ’04, ’99)
2x Stage Tour de France (’06, ’01)
2x GC Tour du Poitou Charentes et de la Vienne (’03, ’01)
4x Stage Tour of Germany (’07, ’06)
4x Stage Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (’07, ’05, ’04, ’98)
6x Stage Critérium International (’09, ’07, ’04, ’03, ’02)
Jens and I met prior to this during Stage Nine of this year’s Tour de France. I picked him out in the crowd and yelled to him, as he made his way up to the NBC Sport broadcast booth. He bounced down the stairs and greeted me and my wife like we were old friends. Jens Voigt is magnetic in that way. I remember walking away with Tammy that morning and telling her that I did not think that was the last time I would see him. I don’t know why. I just did. Either I would ride in his grand fondo or something, but I would see him again. He was just like I thought he would be. Very polite and down to earth are the first things that pop into my head. Nothing pretentious, a dude you could just hang out with.
I arrived at the shop early. I printed the picture of us at the Tour and walked up to him with it. He took one look and nodded his head and asked how my wife was doing. We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked if he would sign my picture. Of course, he did. I knew we would talk more on the road, so I let others at the shop get a word in. It was not long before we rolled away from the shop. The sky was clear and the temp was hovering in the mid-50s. I could already tell it was going to be an epic ride.
There were only a few of us, so we were in a double-pace line. Jens stayed on the front for the whole ride, and it was not long before I rotated to the front with him. He told me to keep it steady because he does not get the chance to train much, so he is not that fast anymore. I replied that I find that hard to believe, and it later played true as we were on the front together again going up a pretty good climb. Jens kept a steady 250 watts and never stopped chatting or pausing to take a deep breath. I asked him halfway up if this would be a good place to attack. He said, “Absolutely,” in his heavy German accent; then he continued on with his story.
We talked a lot that day about our kids, and he asked about how it felt for me to be an “empty nest” parent. There it is. That question from him to me show what it is that separates him from other famous people I have met and makes him an incredible ambassador for cycling and representative of Trek. Of course, I also asked him about training and his book Shut Up Legs. I enjoyed reading the book and highlighted several places in it. But there were still two questions I wanted to ask:
Who is the most talented rider you’ve ever witnessed?
If you could win either the Tour de France or Paris Roubaix, which would it be?
On first question, Jens paused and thought for a second. “It would be a tie between Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen. Both are incredible riders.” On the second question, he did not hesitate. “The Tour, for sure.” When I brought up the fact that it is rumored that at 48 years old Davide Rebellin is supposed to ride the 2020 Giro, Jens added that he truly believed that if he started training today he could still finish the 2020 Tour de France within the time limits. I believe him. He later commented on Paris Roubaix and how it takes a toll on your body. “My knuckles were so swollen from holding onto the handlebar that I could not even hold a can of Coke, let alone open it.”
It goes without saying that this was another day I will never forget. After 52 awesome miles and taking in the sights as we rolled around Fort Benning, Georgia (Jens is a big military machinery enthusiast), we pulled back to the shop where we thanked him for taking the time. He was heading back to Germany the next day and would stay in Atlanta overnight. But before heading out, he was definitely going to the Atlanta Zoo. “I love da zoo,” he said with a big, kid smile.
Thanks and Bon Vélo, Jens!