I adore him. He’s great. I love him so much that I married him and hope to remain married to him all our lives. Nevertheless, cyclist Jens Voight may be cooler. In fact, he may be the coolest man alive. Fans of cycling love him. Look at the enthusiasm on the guy in the red shirt’s face. Heck, look at the enthusiasm on Jens’ face.
We watched the stage from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, France and were lucky enough to see Jens Voigt (who at 40 years old is the oldest rider in the race) attack. He is known for his epic attacks, ability to endure pain and delightful personality. We got to see him climbing the last climb after he escaped from a 25-man group. He attacked, lost ground and regained it, just missing the stage win, coming in third. Seeing it live. Priceless.
Just check out the determination on his face in every photo. Here are 10 examples of Jens Voigt epic coolness:
10. In the 2010 Tour de France, Jens Voigt’s front tire blew out, causing him to crash. He’d been speeding down mountain in the Pyrenees (Col de Peyresourde) at 70 kilometers (40 miles) an hour. Needless to say, he hit the pavement hard, shattering his bike, breaking ribs and creating a huge gash in his elbow. Stop? Never! Bleeding, Jens borrowed a kid’s bike and rode it for 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) until he he could get a new bike from his team car!
9. While riding up Alpe d’Huez (an epic mountain) the Tour de France, Jens gave a kid his empty water bottle. Happy and loving life, he was angered when we saw a middle-aged guy tackle the kid and take the bottle. Fired up and pissed off that the jerk had rained on his parade, he stopped, turned around and coasted down the mountain. Perplexed observers likely wondered whether he was injured or abandoning the tour. Jens found the guy in the crowd, pointed to his bag and told him that the bottle he grabbed was for this kid. The jerk gave it back and the crowd went nuts.
8. In the 2011 Tour of California Jens rode two stages with a broken hand. Even though it caused him constant pain, that wasn’t the reason he dropped out of the race. According to the doctors who treated him, leaving it untreated would permanently damage his hand and ability to grip things. He flew back to Germany to get surgery. Before leaving, he apologized saying “I would like to apologize to the fans not only for withdrawing but for the two stages I did manage to do after I broke my hand. I was just operational on those days, and that does not satisfy me. I am never there just to fill up the numbers. So, please dear fans: Don’t be mad at me! Do not start thinking I am getting all soft in my old days. I will make up for everything in Tour of Colorado, or even maybe next year in Tour of California.”
7. In the Amgen Tour of California the following year, a bee landed on Jens’ lip. He tried to just leave it alone, but it stung him anyway. Don’t piss off Jens, he’ll eat you, literally. “…[T]hen i (sic) decided to live up to my image and swallowed her and did chew every bit of honey out of that bee!!!” His lip swelled in the middle of the race and joked about looking like he’d had a cosmetic procedure. Always positive, Jens said, “Take that little bug as punishment for messing with me!!”
6. If you want to have some fun, check out all of the Jens Voightisms on the internet. One of my favorites, “Jens Voigt will never have a heart attack. Jens Voigt’s heart isn’t stupid enough to attack him.” I like them better than the Chuck Norris-type tributes because with Jens, they are probably true.
5. Jens went down hard in the 2009 Tour de France while descending the the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard when his front wheel inexplicably lost traction. He bit it hard, face first. He lost consciousness for three to four minutes. He had a concussion, a litany of bruises and broken bones in his face. He hit so hard that he was lucky to be alive. In typical Jens fashion, he called his wife that night and told her that he knew who she was and their kids were, that he just needed some time to heal.
4. He says one-liners like, “Shut up, legs” and ”Make My Day” in a funny German accent. Essentially, he laughs at pain. His acceptance of it and ability to endure it sets him apart. In the self-flagellating sport of cycling, this makes him a saint. What really makes him remarkable is his ability to endure it with a smile and a sense of humor. He summarized his attitude, by saying, ”I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world – I’ve been able to make my hobby my job. Because it’s such a hard sport, it’s important to be able to work in an environment that’s fun. Imagine, you think: ‘Hey, now I have to go back to the races, back to all those idiots.’ That just doesn’t work.”
3. He looks to differentiate himself from his competitors and has settled on determination. Jens said, “It’s about determination. These days, everybody trains hard and smart. Everybody has a decent technique or tactic… a good bike… You’ve got to look somewhere else to make a difference. Tour de France winners used to win by 15 minutes. Today, 15 minutes out, you’re in 35th. So the one with the highest pain threshold takes it. If you can suffer a little bit more, go out hard one more time, it intimidates the other riders, even if you’re only slightly better than them. That one more push could crack your opponents and you’re out front while everyone else in the back arguing who’s going to chase you. Let them play the poker game. Up front, it’s all or nothing. I try to tell the guys that. And I have enough experience to prove it.” In other words, I am willing to suffer more than you, you don’t want to force me to prove it to you.
2. In the 2011 Tour de France, true to his motto “always attack,” Jens escaped in a breakaway with several riders in Pyrenees. On a steep descent, Jens tumbled off the side of the mountain into a ravine. He climbed out, dragging his bike with him. He got back on his bike, began riding and promptly crashed again, hard. Jens rejoined the peleton so that he was there for at a critical moment in the race, to sacrifice himself for his star teammates, the brothers Andy and Frank Schleck. No wonder they love him. After two nasty falls, his bloody legs broke the breakaway. Vintage Jens.
1. Jens takes advantage of his job to see things. Some people just sail through without looking. He comments on seeing castles or the shortest town name ever. How can you not appreciate someone like that?