Jens Voigt is going to attack The Hour record on 18 September. It’ll be on TV. It seems he’s on course to beat the record but should leave something on the boards for others to have ago. It’s the perfect move for him and The Hour as a contest.
What is “Jens” to you? He’s won plenty – Tour of Germany twice, Criterium International five times – but for many it’s the battling rider who goes up the road in the kind of move that would have Saint Jude The Apostle, patron of lost causes muttering “for f&*k’s sake”. But that’s half the charm, he’s often been one to liven up a race before the finish line. For others its his age, he won the Peace Race in 1994 when some of today’s pros were not even born. Combine his efforts and longevity and time after time he’s come to the rescue of TV broadcasters with a long range solo attack. I can remember him doing it on the final stage of the Tour de France in the 1990s as the peloton rolled to Paris; he did it on the opening stage of this year’s Tour in Yorkshire. His final race was the US Pro Challenge and he did it again until the bunch caught him and Elia Viviani won the sprint. You can spot the pattern across his career, long rang breakaways with his legs pumping like nodding donkeys along with a few wins. It was this never-say-die attitude that won him so much support.
Can he do it?
The Hour Record is all so different, there’s no hare and hounds chase nor a battle against the odds, it’s all about steady state riding. He’s got little track background but the Hour isn’t too technical; as for time trial experience he has plenty but it’s been a while since he won big. But he doesn’t have to deliver the biggest time trial of the year either. The UCI has partially reset the record and the bar is set at 49.700km. Fast but on a warm track with all the aero advantages going and it’s possible. For a loose comparison Voigt averaged 48.8km/h earlier this year in the Tour of California’s 20km time trial, held on a flat course. There’s also the fact that he won’t ride if he, and especially his sponsors, think it’ll flop. The team know his power output and can extrapolate from this and performances in the velodrome. Given his reputation for long range moves that often get caught it’d almost be fitting if he pulls out an early advantage only to get “caught” by Sosenka in the final moments but this is a chance to redefine his image and to end with an eternal success. The screen in the background of the image tweet below suggests he’s aiming for 51 kilometres.
— LAURENCE SCHIRRECKER (@ESPCyclingQueen) September 10, 2014
Technically it’ll be interesting to see what he’s riding too, it’ll give us a clue about the new standards for the record. Not so much the rules as we know them, rather the bike Trek has created and the other details from shoes to skinsuit and helmet. In other words, the gear Fabian Cancellara will use.
He might be smooth in the wind tunnel but in real life? When unleashed on the road his style is so forceful the bike wobbles like he’s perpetually riding through an invisible chicane, watch his front wheel in the clip above. On the track you have to follow a straighter line and course he’ll adapt – you can imagine the “Jens Voigt Facts” claim that if he’d ridden in a straight line he’d have done an extra kilometre – so it’ll be a different sight.
One amusement is that the attempt will be held in the new velodrome in Grenchen, Switzerland. Why amusing? A joke explained is a joke ruined but the velodrome was part-funded by BMC owner Andy Rihs and BMC’s HQ is right opposite the velodrome. Imagine if Porsche held a press day for a new car at Fiorano and you get the picture.
First Mover Advantage
The Hour Record can make a rider but Voigt offers something to the contest:
- Audience: he’s got many fans who might not be converts to track racing or speciality record attempts so he’ll bring something to the record
- Intrigue: can he do it? For Fabian Cancellara or Bradley Wiggins the only uncertainty is by how much they’d beat the record but with Voigt that’s less certain
- Contest: if he sets the record then several track and time trial specialists will fancy their chances at beating him. This sets up a contest with the promise of several attempts rather than an isolated event
A long range career famous for long range breaks is set to end with a time trial. It might seem out of character but it’s a bold way to end a long career with a memorable triumph. He’ll end with a win rather than a catch. Still it’s pure Voigt because if he attacks the record it’s only a matter of time until others overhaul him with a record.