Friday, August 06, 2010
Jens The Barbarian
Today’s edition of the Friday psyche series features Jens Voigt, one of the toughest bike racers in history. Jens has won a lot of bike races. Because he’s not a climber or a sprinter he has to do it the hard way, by attacking the peloton and riding alone in breakaway groups. For those who aren’t aware, the difference between riding alone and in a group is, minimum, a 30% difference. I once interviewed Judith Arndt after a 100k solo breakaway win and she said, “If you ride like this very often you will go crazy!” Yet that is precisely how Voigt makes his living. Whether or not you think he's crazy it's hard to not to gush in admiration. This guy defines panache.
"So then the broom wagon pulled up and was like, 'Do you want to just get in?' And I said, 'Oh no, I don’t need YOU!' But there I am with blood spurting out my left elbow and no bike. Finally, the race organizers got me a bike, but it was this little yellow junior bike. It was way too small for me and even had old-fashioned toe-clip pedals. But that is the only way I could get down the mountain, so I had to ride it for like 15-20 kilometers until I finally got to a team car with my bike.
Then, I still had to get up to the grupetto. All I can say is that that desperate times need desperate measures..."
Voigt had crashed out of the Tour the year before and was so determined to finish this year that “I would have ridden a horse.”
“Needless to say, I had plenty of time to come up with a fitting book of the day. It’s from the Disk World series by Terry Pratchett. In it, the protagonist is Conan the Barbarian, who is a 70-year-old who has just survived everything. At one point he, and his other old warrior friends capture this village, but then they find that they are surrounded by an army of tens of thousands, and his only reaction is, “Oh man, it’s going to take days to kill all these people!” And that’s the way I was today when I was lying on the ground. I just thought, “Oh no, I’m going to Paris this year, I’m going to Paris. There’s just no way you are going to get me out of this race for the second year in a row!”