BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) infiltrated the break du jour on stage 6 of the USA Pro Challenge on Saturday to wrest the King of the Mountains jersey off the back of Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp), locking down the overall KOM classification in the process.
The affable 40-year-old, already hugely popular with American cycling fans, helped initiate the day’s break right from the start.
Voigt, who also saw success from a breakaway in stage 4, which he won after an 85-mile solo effort, worked with his 12 breakaway companions, including Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Serghei Tvetcov (Exergy), Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare), Matt Brammeier (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Liquigas-Cannondale riders Timmy Duggan, Fabio Aru, and Paolo Longo Borghini, and eventual winner Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) to hit the base of Flagstaff Mountain with two minutes in hand.
After attacking 20 miles from the finish to set up teammate George Bennett for the penultimate KOM, Voigt again attacked at the base of Flagstaff Mountain, bringing Sutherland with him. Although Sutherland went on to win the stage, Voigt’s third-place finish, at 26 seconds back, gave him enough points to take the jersey.
Asked at the post-race press conference whether he had planned to go for the KOM jersey, Voigt replied: “No, not really. I never really thought about that because, I believe, I was third this morning, missing 10 to 15 points.”
As the leaders on the road — Sutherland, Fabio Aru (Astana), and Voigt — arrived atop Flagstaff, reigning KOM leader Danielson was nowhere to be seen.
At the finish, having arrived a full 90 seconds after Voigt, Danielson told VeloNews, “I didn’t do the performance I’d hoped for, but, you know, that’s what you get when you race the race as aggressively as I have.”
“We really wanted to win the KOM …[we] didn’t know, Jens, it was possible for him to win, so big shock there,” he added.
In light of his stage-3 solo win into Aspen, however, Danielson added, “Would I trade Aspen for this? No.”
Voigt has previously worn the polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France, in 1998, and won the mountains classification in the 2008 Tour of Poland, where he also prevailed on the overall. And though he’ll turn 41 in three weeks, making him one of the oldest riders in the pro peloton, the big German has signed with RadioShack-Nissan to race for another year.
At the moment, though, he was circumspect about his new and unexpected KOM jersey, saying, “Apparently it ended up on my shoulders, so hey, I’ll take it.”
Take it he will, as a just reward for riding from the heart in front of one of his biggest fan bases.