The man, the myth, the domestique

I would like to take a moment to talk about a life-changing event that happened to me yesterday. It happened during the latter part of the first stage of Paris-Nice. It was a mythical moment that I had heard much about, but wasn’t sure if it actually existed. I feared I would never witness this magical event. But yesterday, friends, I was privy to one of cycling’s greatest gifts: an attack by Jens Voigt. Ever since I entered into the realm of cycling I had heard mention of this sacred event: the unrelenting power, the pain dished out to fellow breakaway riders, the famous Jens grimace. And yesterday I got to witness it first hand.

Now, let me let you in on a little secret of pro cycling: if you want to be loved and accepted by your fellow cycling fans, all you have to say is “I love Jens Voigt.” To which everyone will respond with open arms and an exclamation of “Oh I love Jensi! Isn’t he the best?!” The phrase is almost akin to a secret password. And in a way it is. To proclaim your love for Jens is to demonstrate that you truly understand cycling and that it is not just about the stage winners or even the race winners. One of the coolest things about cycling is how the work horses, the diesels, the domestiques get just as much respect in the peloton as the protected team leaders. A Chris Horner, a Michael Berry, a Mark Renshaw are just as much of a cycling celebrity as a Wiggins, a Cavendish, or a Schleck. And in the true cycling world, the domestiques probably get MORE respect than the protected riders! To ride yourself into the ground chasing a breakaway or to put the hurt on the peloton for your team earns you big props in the cycling world, even if you have to limp to the finish line. A perfect example of this appreciation for hard work was seen today, when Geraint Thomas got just as many shout outs on Twitter for Greg Henderson’s win on stage 2 of Paris-Nice as Henderson did.

Not only is Jens a super domestique, but he’s a ridiculously nice guy. He’s got 6 kids, been a pro cyclist since 1997, and is always good for a quote or joke. His “Shut up, Legs!” is probably his most iconic quote and it perfectly illustrates his hard man status: this is what his brain tells his legs when they want to stop pedaling. This quote has inspired t-shirts galore, posters, comparisons, etc. The other iconic Jensism? His pain cave grimace. To wit:

Whenever Jens is taking a pull on the front, he’s going deep into his pain cave, where this face comes out to play. So now not only are the other riders terrified of his pace he’ll set when he goes to the front, but they’re also terrified he’s actually going tear their legs off and eat them. This face was in out in full force during yesterday’s Paris-Nice stage:

Isn’t it a beaut?

Jens has been in some pretty bad accidents, the worst of which happened during the 2009 Tour. A bump on a downhill descent resulted in him literally kissing the pavement. He survived with only a broken cheekbone, a concussion and some serious road rash on his face, which is miraculous when you look at the footage of the crash! He again crashed on a downhill descent during the 2010 Tour, this time because of a blown tire and with much less serious injuries- road rash, broken ribs, 5 stitches in his elbow. His bike was totalled, but he refused to abandon the race and instead took a bike from the neutral support service car, which, as a junior sized bike, was much too small for him! His interview with the Saxo Bank media people reveals his positive attitude and hard man mentality- a little downhill crash isn’t going to stop him!

It’s possible this year will be Jens’ last and the day he leaves will be a sad day. But there will always be domestiques to keep the peloton rolling!

Almost forgot the best part! For some reason, Jens has become the Chuck Norris of cycling. Which means people come up with “facts” about Jens and his mythical, magical powers. So I present you with a list of “Little Known Jens Voigt Facts,” all culled from the Texas Tailwind blog.

  • Jens Voigt doesn’t read books. He simply attacks until the books relent and tell him everything he wants to know.
  • Jens doesn’t spin or mash the pedals… he kicks them into submission.
  • Jens Voigt puts the “laughter” in “Manslaughter.”
  • Jens once had a heart attack on the Tourmalet. Jens counterattacked repeatedly until he kicked its ass.
  • If Jens Voigt was a country, his principle exports would be Pain, Suffering, and Agony.
  • If Jens Voigt was a planet, he’d be the World of Hurt.
  • Jens Voigt doesn’t know where you live, but he knows exactly where you will die.
  • When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jens Voigt jumps out and attacks.
  • Jens Voigt can start a fire by rubbing two mud puddles together.
  • Guns kill a couple dozen people every day. Jens Voigt kills 150.

Got any Jens facts of your own?



3 thoughts on “The man, the myth, the domestique

  1. What’s not to love about Jens? He is a proper old-school cyclist who rides as willingly for the glory of others as he does for himself, and the sport will be a sadder place when he hangs up the lycra for the final time. To see Jens grimacing away at the front as he drives up a mountain or in pursuit of a breakaway is one of the sport’s most heartening sights – you can see the effort etched into his features, but also in the impact it has as riders are shelled out of the back of the peloton by the dozen, even though they are riding in shelter.

    The only thing better than watching Jens fight his own body’s limitations in the service of others is to watch him win. He typically only gets one win a year these days in smaller races, but I well remember his last big win at the 2008 Giro because it had the Voigt trademark stamped all over it. He slipped away in a break on a medium-mountain stage to Varese which the peloton was happy to let go, and then soloed away from his fellow escapees to win – none of them were able or willing to withstand the kind of punishment that Jens willingly accepted. And that’s Jens Voigt in a nutshell for you.

    1. TheBloomingCyclist

      stop putting it so succinctly! you’re showing me up!

      Seriously, though, i really hope i get a chance to see a Jens win this season!

  2. Don’t be silly – you put it very well. Put a big smile on my face!

    It probably won’t happen here, but fingers crossed he can win in one of the second tier races later in the season where he is more free to ride for himself rather than in service of Andy and Frank. He’s always ridden well at the Tour of California, so maybe there? Wherever, we’ll all be celebrating if and when he does win! 🙂

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