Team CSC’s Jens Voigt has been making new friends all spring.
Normally, the German marauder is off the front in some suicidal attack, nose to the wind, a tactic that’s served him well with an impressive haul of 11 wins before the end of April in both 2004 and 2005.
This year, he´s been uncharacteristically quiet, hidden away in the bunch and getting a new vision on the peloton.
“I´ve discovered riders in the peloton I´ve never seen before,” Voigt said. “I´m finishing in groups I´ve never seen before, so it´s like a whole new view of the world!”
It’s not as if the 34-year-old is getting soft in old age. No, it’s all part of a larger plan to launch Voigt on the larger stage later in the season when Team CSC captain Ivan Basso will be making a run for both the Giro and the Tour.
“I´ve approached the whole season differently,” Voigt said. “It was part of the plan to start the season a little slower to be ready for the Tour de France and the Tour of Germany later in the season.”
Another factor for Voigt´s slow start was a cyclo-cross spill last winter that required two surgeries and pushed back his preparation until he waited for his broken collarbone to heal.
Voigt said the new approach come as a welcome change. After all, winning everything in the spring could almost seem routine.
“We´ve dominated the spring for the past two seasons, so Bjarne (Riis) said we don´t have to keep racing the same thing year after year,” he said. “So we made a change to have fewer, but more important objectives. Instead of, say, winning 27 racers like we did last year, we can win 15, but bigger races.”
A look at this year’s spring classics reveal the new and old of Voigt’s vision. Last year, Voigt lit up the Ardennes, attacking with trademark abandon in both Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liège, losing the latter to Alexandre Vinokourov in an explosive sprint. Voigt´s exploits were so emotional that longtime race director Jean-Marie Leblanc embraced him at the finish, not the winner.
Now Voigt will reload for the Giro d’Italia, a race he’s starting for the first time of his career.
“I’ve only raced anything but the Tour,” he said. “I’m almost embarrassed to say that I am 34 and I’ve only ridden the Tour. I’d like to widen my horizons a little bit and see how the Giro goes. I’ve heard it’s not as hard as the Tour and not as fast. I’m old enough to absorb the workload. It’s not going to kill me, so why not?”