Jens Voigt, one of the peloton’s most popular riders, hopes he can ride the Tour de France for the 17th and final time in his last season – and is asking his British fans to keep their fingers crossed that he’ll make the team for next July’s race, which starts in Yorkshire.
On Wednesday, Voigt was in Paris for the presentation of the 101st edition of the race.
He’s ridden it 16 times – should he start next year’s race, he will equal the record for most participations jointly held by George Hincapie and Stuart O’Grady –but this week is the first time he has been there in person to watch the route be unveiled. Afterwards, road.cc had a brief chat with him.
“I’m not even sure if I’m actually going to make the Tour – I have to make the cut first,” said Voigt, who will ride for Trek next season; the American bicycle manufacturer is taking over the licence currently held by his RadioShack-Leopard team.
“And I’m 42, so things aren’t getting easier,” went on the German rider, who has two Tour stage wins to his name and who has also worn the race leader’s yellow jersey.
“At a certain moment the young kids must come up with a performance better than me and take my place. That’s just the way nature goes.
“If they don’t claim my place then, yes, I might be in Yorkshire next year, who knows?
“So keep your fingers crossed if you want to see me, that I have a good winter and make the Tour.”
During the presentation of the Tour’s route, the audience at the Palais des Congrès were shown a video showcasing the region and its roads.
“It was a pretty cool show – I hope to see it one day,” laughed Voigt. “Maybe next year, or the years after, I’ll come back as a sports director.”
If he is there, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d ridden the event on British roads, as he explained.
“I was lucky enough to do the Tour de France Grand Départ in 2007 in London, which was a huge success in terms of public and spectacular pictures and images and a beautiful time trial circuit we had passing Buckingham Palace – you could almost wave at the Queen there.
“So that was pretty spectacular and already there we had something like 2 million people watching live there on the streets.
“I guess it’s going to be double the size now with Wiggins and Froome and Cavendish being such superheroes.
“It’s going to be basically closing the whole country down, everybody’s going to be on the side of the road trying to watch it. So it’s going to be great… it’s going to be super great.”
You only have to look at the reaction on Twitter on a day when Voigt has gone on the attack – as he did on the penultimate stage of this year’s race, taking the combativity prize for the day – to to realise the affection in which he is held.
So while Chris Froome and Alberto Contador would have been paying attention on Wednesday to the stages that will have most impact on the GC, and Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel picking out the sprint opportunities, Voigt was more interested in identifying potential breakaway days.
“Yeah, when they showed it, they had one they said for grimpeurs, I thought, no, that’s for a breakaway, climbers are going to hold back a little bit, it’s going to be a breakaway making that day,” he revealed.
“You see a few stages where you think, ‘yeah, that could fit for a breakaway,’ but generally speaking it seems to be a tough Tour,” he concluded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.