German Jens Voigt downplayed comments made by American Lucas Euser after Saturday’s sixth stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, saying that words exchanged between them in the day’s breakaway were made “in the heat of the race.”
Prior to the start of Sunday’s seventh and final stage, the veteran Trek Factory Racing rider responded to Euser’s complaints that Voigt had sat on the day’s 15-rider breakaway, and then yelled at Euser after the UnitedHealthcare rider asked him to contribute to the group’s efforts.
Voigt had been the first rider to escape the peloton on stage 6. Euser bridged across, and the two riders rode together, temporarily, until Voigt attacked Euser and went clear, alone.
Euser was then swept up by a bridging chase group, which absorbed Voigt into a 15-man breakaway that contained four BMC riders, including eventual stage winner Cadel Evans.
Also in that group was Hincapie Sportswear rider Joey Rosskopf, as well as Voigt’s Trek teammate, Riccardo Zoidl.
Towards the end of the stage, at the base of the climb up to Snowbird Mountain Resort, Euser and Evans could both be seen motioning to Zoidl — and Trek’s team director, Alain Gallopin — about the Austrian national champion’s lack of contribution to the winning move.
Euser’s comments were made following the stage, when he was asked about Rosskopf’s eye-opening performance; near the top of the climb, the Hincapie Sportswear rider gapped off Euser, and then Zoidl, and nearly took the win, finishing second, two seconds behind the 2011 Tour de France champion.
The UnitedHealthcare rider expressed his disappointment in both Voigt, and Zoidl, saying, “[Rosskopf] deserved every bit of the attention he got today. He rode well. You know, the Trek guys sat on all day, so did Jens. I’ve lost all respect for those guys. Jens was cursing at me up Emigration Canyon; he’s lost respect for the sport. And guys like Joey Rosskopf have all the respect in the world for it. And he’s going to go a long ways. It’s time for the Jenses of the world to leave, and it’s time for the Joeys of the world to step up.”
Voigt, a popular rider among American fans, attributed the heated words to a “conflict of interest.”
“It’s just a bike race,” Voigt said. “We have different plans. He wants to go top 10 in the overall, and I just looked at the stage [win]. When we went out on the break, he wasn’t committed to go with me alone, he wanted to wait for the group that was coming across, and I wanted to go alone so that I could win the stage. It was just a conflict of interest and so I said, ‘Okay, I’m better off alone.’ So I attacked him. When they caught me, okay now I don’t need to stay in the front, Cadel is in the group so [BMC] is gonna go full gas. Lucas said, ‘Eh, why don’t you work?’
“I don’t see anybody beating Cadel today and why should I fulfill your dream of coming top 10? My race is to win a stage and I don’t see that happening anymore so I really don’t have an interest to see this group survive. That’s bike racing. In the end, the guy that pays your paycheck says, ‘No, you’re not going to pull,’ what can you do?”
Voigt, 42, has been racing professionally since 1997, and is at the tail end of his final season. He’s won races such as the Tour of Germany, and Criterium International, which he’s won five times; he’s also worn the yellow jersey at the Tour de France twice, in 2001 and 2005.
While not well known internationally, Euser, 30, is no stranger to American cycling fans. After years spent as part of the Slipstream Sports program, Euser rode for the Canadian SpiderTech squad from 2010 to 2012, and has been with UnitedHealthcare for the past two seasons. In 2009 Euser’s career nearly ended when a car struck him while training in Girona, Spain.
In May, Euser was in the news after he abandoned the U.S. national road championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to tend to his friend, Taylor Phinney, after the BMC rider crashed heavily and broke his leg.
Euser finished eighth on Saturday’s stage, 35 seconds behind Evans, and 15th overall at the Tour of Utah.
On Sunday, Euser somewhat downplayed his comments, speaking in generalities about the dynamics of a breakaway, and the heightened emotions that are inherent in professional racing.
“I race with a lot of heart. I always have,” Euser said. “And yesterday I went all in, both physically and emotionally. I was caught in the heat of the moment, and afterwards, and I was frustrated. I love how Joey raced. I think Joey deserves all the attention in the world that he gets. And he’s going to be a huge talent to come out of the U.S.
“Yesterday was just a very aggressive day of racing. Everybody would have liked to have seen a little more work from the group than we had, but the situation was the situation, and Evans was there, and now I get it. Cadel had the weight of the race on his shoulders. It was a great day of racing. I look forward to days like that all the time. It’s something that I live for and something that suits my riding style. I get really passionate, and I want everybody to be a part of it.”
The two riders will see each other again, at the upcoming USA Pro Challenge, and Voigt said there would be no hard feelings.
“He is passionate about the sport. Every now and then, in the heat of the race, you let slip out words — probably I did as well — but, no, there’s no reason to hold a grudge,” Voigt said. “He’s a cool guy. He’s a good rider. I think he was just a little frustrated that his plan didn’t work out, or he wanted to be winning a stage also. Just a bit of frustration, tiredness… There’s actually no reason to talk about it at all. It’s not even a story to me. I mean, he’s a cool guy. I get along with him. No worries.”
Velo managing editor Chris Case contributed to this report.