Roughly once in a generation, a rider in the professional peloton emerges who is more than just a racer. A rider who makes an impression on the entire sport. A rider who will always be associated with the sport. Jens Voigt is one of those special riders. He was for years a support rider for the leaders of Team Leopard Trek, Team Radioshack Nissan and Trek Factory Racing. He rode in the professional peloton for 20 years, before hanging up his bike in 2014. We take a look back at this hero’s career.
Jens Voigt in numbers
We dived into the statistics to get a better idea about this legendary rider. Build: 1.89m tall and weighing in at 76kg makes him by definition a real rouleur. But thanks to his catchphrase, “Shut up Legs!” and his mental resilience, he’s actually more of a baroudeur. Oh, and he’s also a time trialist: he has 12 individual time trial victories to his name.
The numbers also tell us something about Jens’ mental strength. His first professional victory was in 1991. That means a professional career spanning 23 years, if you include his last race in 2014. That in itself is something to be proud of. Few riders have the determination and stamina for such a long period as a professional cyclist. He’s ridden 20 Grand Tours. Interestingly, he never rode the Tour of Spain: he rode the Tour de France 17 times and the Giro d’Italia three times. He’s won two stages in the Tour de France, and one in the Giro. He was also second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2005.
Photo: Getty Images
“Shut up Legs!”
Our hero’s mental resilience is reflected well in his now-famous slogan, “Shut up legs!” This clearly resonated with fans. His colleagues and competition were less happy with the apparent ease and perseverance with which Voigt could single-handedly rip the peloton apart. Even though Voigt has not been in the peloton for a few years, “Shut up legs!” will forever be tied to his personality. He even has a clothing line which carries the slogan, which includes cycling clothing, of course. It’ll be mainly be the riders behind you who’ll be able to read the motivational words: not entirely handy during healthy competition with your mates on the flanks of the Limburg hills.
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World Hour Record
Jens Voigt announced his retirement in 2013. But Jens is not a rider to leave the peloton by the back door. On his final day as a professional he attempted to break the world hour record. In 2014, the UCI relaxed the rules slightly on bicycle design for the one hour record. As a result, Jens became the first rider to break the record at a speed of over 50kph. He covered 51.110km in 60 minutes, to be precise. That’s what we call going out in style.
In the 2009 edition of the Tour de France, Jens was in a perfect position, together with his team leader Andy Schleck. He had just been instructed by his team to take it easy on the descent. He hit a pothole and his handlebars broke off his front forks, causing Voigt to hit the deck at full speed. The crash looked very serious indeed. Everyone who saw the images held their breath. Incredibly, Voigt ‘only’ suffered a broken jaw, heavy concussion and a lot of road rash after the crash. A year later, he jumped on a kids bike in order to reach Paris: he had absolutely no intention of giving up two years in a row.
A photo of Jens Voigt riding a bike which was much too small for him, with old-fashioned toe clips on his feet started circulating during the 2010 tour. A very odd image, but there’s a story to go with it. Voigt crashed during the climb on the Col de Peyresourde. Once he’d collected himself, he realised there was no team car behind him any more, and the broom wagon appeared to be his only option. There are a huge number of side-events which take place during the Tour de France. One of these is a team of kids who ride part of the stage, ahead of the real race. Voigt saw the car carrying the bikes from this event, asked to borrow one, and managed to survive the 18km descent to the finish line on a much-too-small kids bike. A policeman was waiting at the bottom of the descent with a team bike for Jens. Voigt’s team manager at the time, Bjarne Riis, asked the policeman to give the bike to Voigt when he passed by. Jens ended the stage on his official bike. And completed the Tour de France.
Jens Voigt on the legendary too-small bicycle