Jens Voigt’s Last Hour

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.

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.

39 thoughts on “Jens Voigt’s Last Hour”

  1. I’m excited as I hope this forces the hand of Spartacus, Wiggo and Martin to really smash the record. The reset value should be well within reach for Jensie but the real TTers have more to give I’m sure.

    • I think it’s good for the credibility if the record holder was on the biological passport programme at the time of the attempt.

      It also opens the way for the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin to go for it. I’m sure Specialized would like to compete with Trek in this area. Especially since it’s a fairly cheap way of gaining publicity.

    • Keeping it to guys on the passport program is the only sane way, at the moment, of having the record “clean” (for known values of clean). It’s the best that can be done, but it does suck for guys that are probably genuine but not on the programme.

    • The bio-passport requirement doesn’t exist in UCI’s hour record rules – which clearly stipulate the anti-doping requirements for record attempts.

      No other track cycling record requires an athlete to be part of the bio-passport program. UCI’s records for motor pace, individual and team pursuits, track TT, 200m flying TT – none have this requirement.

      It was last minute made up nonsense by Cookson designed to prevent a legitimate amateur from an attempt, simply to protect the publicity value of the event, not its athletic integrity. Anyone who thinks the passport has prevented doping is deluded.

      Once again it’s a case of the UCI not adhering to its own rules and making it up as it goes along.

      • UCI announced they were going to review and revise the hour bike rules, then at a later date they issued the revised technical rules for the bike, and stated that bio-passport was likely to be a requirement too. That will find its way into paperwork eventually. Unlike all the other records you cite, the hour requires prior approval for an attempt.

        • Bit ironic though if one rider is prevented from a record attempt because of a “requirement” that is not yet in the rules, while another is permitted to ride when not meeting a requirement that IS in the rules.

          Still time though, the bike may be passed legal. It’s required to be inspected 15 days ahead of the attempt, so the frame should already have had it’s UCI sticker at that point, and the UCI may just be slow updating the approved frame list…..

  2. It would be nice to see such a popular rider attempt the hour record.
    I am not as sure as you INRNG that track experience is not really important. Best wishes to Jens, someone who is prepared to put his athleticism where others put their mouths.

  3. Best of luck.
    I like Jens because he seems not to be put off by fear of failure and he’ll put his nose in the wind and actually look like I look when im riding, pained expression, not rock solid body, like he’s not a machine! Those things make him exiting viewing for me.

  4. Love the idea of this and Jens is just the bloke to set a new mark, will certainly fire up some interest and no doubt the bike manufacturers and teams will start putting some incentives into contracts around the record going forward

  5. I’ve been reading somewhere that Jens is also connecting link between era of Indurain, Boardman, Rominger he rode with and nowdays pro’s who may be tempted to try the 1hour record again, after it has been “off the radar” for so long. Go Jens!

  6. Jensie epitomizes a class act. If ever there was a rider who gave 150% every time out, it’s Jensie.
    But it’s not just his raw talent and team player mentality, it’s also his warm personality. He makes himself available to his fans all over the world, not minding signing autographs for all the fans lined up. A clean rider who is the perfect role model for what cycling should be, IMO.

    I will miss him and the Pro Tour will miss him, but at 42, this hour record attempt also epitomizes who he is. Never say die!

    Smash the record, Jens, then ride off into the sunset with your head held high! What a career, what a guy. With all of those kids of yours, there’s gotta be one who will follow in your footsteps and ride, no?

    • I know this typically isn’t the place for this, but I’d challenge your assertion of him being a clean rider. Maybe now, but unlikely in the past.

    • It’s Test Run 15, reference time for 10.25km is 12:21.2 (roughly 49.8kph), Jens is nearly 18sec up which gives the actual 51.007kph. I don’t know how many 10+ km test rides he is doing in one day, but I would expect them to be below anticipated record speed by a small amount, until he gets very close to finalising equipment and position.

  7. trek/Jens know from his power meter his output in different situations but in a Velodrome where conditions are ‘easier’ ie no wind/rain/bad road surface then things can only improve. Cyclefit UK did the training camps in Spain in the Veldrome in (I think) Majorca so he is used to the velodrome and he’s going to get plenty of practice beforehand. It’s ‘only’ any hour so 2 runs a day in a veldrome at eg 45kph with an SRM is going to yield data plus Trek have wind tunnel expertise and are surely going to deliver a great bike. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t at least match the record and I suspect that he has already been near it in rehearsal. It’s a win/win for Trek and Jens whether he beats the record or not. Trek/Shimano get valuable data and Jens gets hero/heroic failure (I suspect the former)

    • Really ?

      Pretty harsh toward a guy with less talent than most but because of hard work and perseverance, he succeeded. Probably why the average guy loves him.

      • Matt’s not the only one. Much as I like Voigt in many ways all this ‘the jensie’ branding is a bit annoying.
        Plus, as had been hinted at above, whatever else you admire him for it’s not his clear and unambivalent statements about doping. Not surprising perhaps when you have worked with Riis and Basso and the Schlecks. Not long ago Stuart O’grady would have been given the same benefit of the doubt, for the same reasons, as Voight is.

  8. If you don’t like ol’ Jensie, no one can help you. So what if he dabbled in doping in the 90s? Who didn’t? If you were riding professionally then you would have too. If you don’t believe that, you’re lying to yourself. I love the old guy & I would love to see him hold this record, even if it’s only until Cancellara, Wiggins, or Martin ride it & throw up a 55k mark. For you naysayers & haters, you should wag more & bark less. Go Jensie!!!

    • The sport benefits every time a rider who “dabbled in doping” retires. The fact that there has been no “truth and reconciliation” type process means the doping from that era continues to cause problems in the present, and can do so for decades when those riders go into coaching and management. Jens is a good guy and all, but my attitude towards his his doping is not “so what.”

  9. He’s ridden at the highest level for 20 years so clearly talented and was in the Olympic gold medal (J.Ullrich) team of 2000. He knew about the doping even if he didn’t participate which seems unlikely as he was part of the East German training school then with T-Mobile (I think) and CSC. But he has never been +ve neither has he figured in any stories so he innocent until proved guilty in my eyes. It’s easy to sit on the computer and judge but he has a family to support and he rode in those times doing his job.

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