Friday, June 26, 2009

Jens Voigt

With 4th of July so close everyone’s attention of course turns to France, where lycra-clad, smooth-legged men will soon spend almost a month racing each other around the country. Le Tour de France gives the French press opportunities to write insanely effusive and poetic things about the heroic exploits of these modern-day knights.

Usually, having grown up in England, I’m adept at quickly dismissing this kind of thing as very… French. But this time I’ve been intrigued by a German rider named Jens Voigt, described by the cycling press as the German Giant – he weighs a massive 170lbs!!! The first thing I noticed was how hard he works. He has a style on the bike that makes his racing look more like a wrestling match with a steel monkey.


Jens has been teaching me how to be part of a team by showing me Giftedness and Servanthood. What I mean is this: Jens is a gifted rider. He’s really aggressive and is always looking for opportunities to attack. Often times he will attack early in a race knowing that a) If no one chases him hard, he’s going to win or b) If the other teams have to chase him hard they are going to be more worn out than his team. So he’s gifted, he uses his skill and his talent to courageously compete. Jens is also a servant. In a stage race like the Tour, each team usually has one specific rider who has a good chance at winning the overall race and the rest of the team supports him. Jens isn’t that guy, he’s never going to beat those 130lbs guys in the mountains. Jens is the guy who rides as hard as he can, with his leader in his slipstream, effectively pulling them as far and as fast as he can. Here’s a great example:

In the 2004 Tour de France, on the 15th stage, Voigt was in a breakaway a couple minutes ahead of the rest of the riders. Then another German from a different team, Jan Ulrich, started attacking. Jen’s CSC team leader was getting left behind by Ulrich and was in danger of losing his 2nd place in the Tour so Jens, giving up his chances of winning, stopped pedaling and waited for his team leader to catch up. Jan Ulrich passed by but still Jens waited. When his team leader caught up, Jens rode right in front of him “pulling” him, after a hard effort, back into contact with Ulrich. Jens successfully helped his leader and team defend the 2nd spot against Jan Ulrich. When the German press was labeling him a traitor and a Judas for helping CSC beat Ulrich, Jens was ferocious: 
“If my team leader Ivan and my boss Bjarne ask me to stop and help the leader, then there is no choice. I would have been a Judas if I’d kept going… I put all my effort and my honor and everything I have into helping [my team leader] Ivan.”

That’s the kind of teammate I want to be. A ferocious attacker who gives everything to help his teammate win.

See a video about Jens on youtube
Part 1:
Part 2: