I Love My Husband, But Jens Voigt May Be The Coolest Man Alive

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?

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I Made The Queen Of Sweden Smile…And Met Camilla Parker-Bowles

We weren’t the only bigwigs in Sweden last week.  Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles (the Duchess of Cornwall) were also visiting.  I caught a glimpse of a fancy motorcade on the way to a museum.  A local told me that it was probably for Prince Charles who was in town visiting the King and Queen.

I was walking through Gamala Stan and saw him come out and sign a couple of autographs on the way from one palace building to another.

The next day, we were on the way to the Vasa Museum when a fancy motorcade sped past.   We were hoping that they weren’t headed to the same place because we didn’t want delays.  We were able to enter the museum when it opened and began touring it.  It is awesome!  So impressive.

We were asked to step back by some guards to make a path for King Carl of Sweden, Queen  Silvia of Sweden, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles to pass. We stepped back and I got the camera ready.  I was able to snap a couple of pics before they got too close (I didn’t want to blind them).  The King and Queen stood back, letting Charles and Camilla work the crowd.  I caught the Queen’s eye, smiled at her, gave her the thumbs up and whispered “great country.”  She cracked a smile.  We had a moment.

Camilla came up to me and asked me where I was from.  I told her that I was from the states, but lived in Geneva.  We chatted about the impressive ship and the well-curated museum.  She asked if I was enjoying my time in Stockholm.  I said “immensely, it’s a wonderful place, but you have a very nice country as well.  We had a fantastic time there.”  She smiled and wished me a nice trip.

Surprisingly, she did not invite me to tea later.  Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising…I’d just eaten smoked salmon and downed a couple of cups of coffee.

 

Swiss Immigrants

A couple of Swiss immigrants

Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of foreigners of any country in the world.  Tons of famous, and not so famous people (us) have moved to Switzerland.  They have a very, um, generous tax policy.

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population (30.6% of the population is either an immigrant or first generation). Famous Swiss immigrants include: *

Courtesy of Top Gear and Hublot

Courtesy of jsp31’s Blog

Courtesy of Why Not? and OWN

For centuries, people have immigrated to Switzerland.  In general, its immigrants have been highly skilled and/or educated.  The Swiss watch industry was fed with French Huguenot’s who fled persecution in France.  Immigrant German professors started Zurich University.  Many Italian immigrants worked on Switzerland’s great engineering projects in the Alps.

courtesy of Leopard Trek

*For you cycling fans, famous cyclists who have lived/trained in Switzerland include: Fabian Cancellara (a Swiss child of Italian immigrants, until recently he was my most popular post), Oscar Freire, Francisco Mancebo, Jan Ullrich, Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans, Markus Burghardt, Andreas Klöden, Linus Gerdemann, Thor Hushovd, Daniele Nardello, and Thomas Frei.

 

Skiing in Sunny, Snowy Crans Montana

Last weekend, I met some friends from Belgium in Crans Montana, Switzerland.  They were lucky enough to vacation there for a week and I crashed with them for a couple of nights.

Their apartment had an insane view. I can’t imagine waking up to a sunrise over mountains like this every morning.

Although I’ve been to Swiss ski towns (Grindelwald, Zermatt) and skied in France (Contaimines, Clusaz) and Italy (Courmayeur), it was my first time skiing (and renting skis) in Switzerland.  Typically, it runs about 18 Euros ($24).  When I rented skis at Crans Montana, I gasped at the price.  It was 64 CHF ($69) for one day!   You would think that I would be used to Swiss prices by now.  They haven’t lost their ability to shock me.

English: Lac de la Moubra in Crans-Montana.

English: Lac de la Moubra in Crans-Montana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess I should have expected it, Crans Montana is a tony town where wealthy Russians, private bankers and the occasional celebrity (Roger Moore, the Sarkozys, Celine Dion, Princess Caroline) congregate.   In addition to skiing, it is known for its golf course (redesigned in 1999 by Seve Ballesteros), meeting facilities and hotel school.

Crans Montana is on the north side of the valley in the Valais region of Switzerland, the sunniest part in all of Switzerland.  It was a glorious sunny day, with plenty of snow and stunning views of the Swiss Alps on the other side of the valley.  It’s snowed in Geneva, but the mountains have received even more of it.  The snow report: lots of it.

These guys were brave enough to go off piste and look good doing it.  Seriously,  they were hopping around like little bunnies.  I was just happy to just not fall (on piste) and embarrass myself even more than I did.

Once again, I was (by far) the worst skier in the group.  Thankfully, everyone was very patient and encouraging.  I gathered my courage and tried a black run for the first time over here.

At the top of the run, notice the pole with the black in the background

The good news is that it was tons of fun and I made it down in one piece.  The bad news is that I was incredibly slow and slid about 40 feet down on my back, head first).

I slid down like the panda in this photo from Arkive.org

On second thought, that panda doesn’t look sufficiently panicked.  He looks like he is enjoying himself and isn’t worried about the possibility of death or serious injury.  Good thing I wear a helmet.

This Is The Big News Over Here?

I’m not sure how much coverage this is getting in the States, but Carla Bruni Sarkozy‘s pregnancy has gotten nonstop coverage here.  She was photographed incessantly every time she left the house while pregnant.  Befitting the first lady of France, she was, of course, very stylishly attired throughout.  Nevertheless, she did not really wear heals during her pregnancy.*

Revue de presse people du 17 octobreWednesday, she had the baby and the First Baby of France (the first baby born to a serving president) is huge news here.  Unfortunately, Sarkozy was not able to be present during the birth because he was in meetings over the tanking Euro.  He did, however, make it to her bedside for about 30 minutes.  Mother and baby are reported to be doing well.  They named the baby girl Giulia. 

Here’s a quote from the magazine I read last weekend (and I know you can’t believe everything you read).   It (roughly) translates to: “frankly, I can’t stand it any more.  I have to stay sitting down or lying down most of the time.  I can’t drink or smoke any more.  I’m in a hurry to get it over with.”   She was almost two weeks overdue when she had the baby.   

France is in the middle of elections that were predicted to be difficult for Sarkozy.  Cynical French say that the baby was planned to coincide with the election in an attempt to experience a “baby bump” at the polls.  It’s not unprecedented.

Sorry for the poor pic, but you can still (barely) see how it’s done

*As she is taller than her husband, she never wears any real heels anyway.  You will notice too that she always walks a bit behind him so that his short stature is not as apparent in photographs.  Perhaps he should try that trick, I could look tall too?