ASPEN, Colorado (VN) — As a consumer of the sport, it’s hard to imagine it without Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing). And yet, very soon, pro cycling will be without one of its biggest characters.
No more “shut up legs.” No more ridiculously timed quotes about soaring eagles while riding in the front group, or daring late moves from the affable German, who’s seen about as much in this sport as an old Mavic wheel atop a neutral support car. After this week’s USA Pro Challenge, the 42-year-old will hang it up for the final time.
“This is going to be my last race. I still can’t believe it. This week, I will sign a start sheet for the last time. It’s been the longest constant factor in my life, 33 years of cycling, almost to the day,” Voigt said at the pre-race press conference here in Aspen.
“There are a whole lot of new chapters coming my way,” he added. “It has been a long career. I hope I’m allowed to say it was a good career … but everything has to come to an end.”
Voigt won a stage at this race two years ago into Beaver Creek, via Independence Pass. He rode alone for some 100 kilometers, through the Colorado wind, storms, and, finally, all alone to the ski-town finish. One hundred kilometers, alone.
Throughout his career, Voigt has been a fan favorite, racing like a madman and churning out gems post-ride. The father of six once said, “In the hierarchy of the family, I’m just above the dog. But I like it that way,” and also that once he retired it would take two riders to replace him.
He’s an entertainer, through and through. He’s also a deep racer; he’s won stages at the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Amgen Tour of California, and wore the yellow jersey on two occasions. Voigt won the overall at the Tour of Germany, as well as Criterium International, five times. He leaves the peloton at age 42, but on his own terms.
“I’m obviously a big fan of the idea that you are in control of your own destiny. You are the master of your fate. … I like that I decide when I’m going,” Voigt said. “I want to stop in good condition. I want to put on a show one more time, still feeling good, strong, still feeling part of it.”
He said he knew it was time after a “conference call” with his legs, head, and body, in which all key elements told him they had one last season left. “I’m going to stick to that promise,” Voigt said. “I also think the other riders are ready to chip in money to make me go away. I think they have had enough of me.”
Though he won’t go out on his native soil, a farewell in the U.S. seems fitting. Trek is an American team, and Voigt is popular here.
“I have a pretty good fan base in the U.S. … and I wanted to entertain my loyal U.S. fans one last time. I hope to have freedom to do one of my stupid breakaways, one last time,” Voigt said. “It’s Colorado, it’s the race, the whole package. When we come to Colorado, the team has breakfast together, a BBQ, a sausage on the grill … there are so many things to do here, I wish I could go mountain biking or hiking on the trails here. Being here gives you peace of mind. It’s good for the soul.”
The USA Pro Challenge begins Monday, August 18, in Aspen, and ends on Sunday, August 24, in Denver.