‘Shut up, legs!’ Jens Voigt shares thrills–and spills–of pro cycling

Jens Voigt speaks to cycling fans at Marty's Reliable Cycle event. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jens Voigt speaks to cycling fans at Marty's Reliable Cycle event. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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By Kevin Coughlin

One hundred and twenty stitches. Eleven broken bones. Titanium rods in both wrists.

An NHL goalie?  An NFL linebacker?

Try Pro Cyclist.

Jens Voigt speaks to cycling fans at Marty's Reliable Cycle event. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jens Voigt speaks to cycling fans at Marty’s Reliable Cycle event. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Professional cycling “is dangerous,” Jens Voigt reminded a crowd of racing fans this month at a bike vendors night in Randolph hosted by Marty’s Reliable Cycle.

After 17 years and some 528,000 miles in the saddle on the European pro circuit, Voigt said he’s happy now to make his living as an “Ambassador of Awesome” for Trek, where the only dangers to his face are smile lines, not road rash.

Which is not to suggest this German lacks toughness. Quite the contrary.

During the 2010 Tour de France, his front tire exploded on a 40 mph downhill in the Pyrenees, splattering him across the pavement. His elbow sprayed so much blood on the road that it reminded him of  “a cheap American movie, like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!”

Determined to complete that stage, Voigt commandeered a child’s small yellow bike and continued the race.

Crowd enjoys a story from retired bike racer Jens Voigt. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowd enjoys a story from retired bike racer Jens Voigt. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to give up, I need to go to Paris,'” even if that meant renting “a horse from a farm,” he recounted, to great laughter inside the Skylands at Randolph.

A self-styled “wild child,” Voigt was lured to cycling at age 10 by the promise of a free bike, with encouragement from parents eager to re-channel his abundant energy.

He brought a “strong will and a good engine” to the sport, twice wearing the yellow jersey as a stage winner in the Tour de France.  His ability to push himself to the limit was summed up by his most famous quote: “Shut up, legs!”

Jens Voigt and Marty Epstein field audience questions in Randolph. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jens Voigt and Marty Epstein field audience questions in Randolph. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Voigt, who speaks German, English, French and Russian and, in moments of anger, can “make the trees blush” in about 20 tongues, retired on top last September, setting the hour record (since eclipsed) by covering nearly 32 miles on a track — at age 43.

His first thought after that feat?

Cycling fans enjoy an anecdote from former pro Jens Voigt. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cycling fans enjoy an anecdote from former pro Jens Voigt. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“No more pain!” he said. Unable to climb stairs for four days afterwards, he told himself: “No more suffering for me, ever!”

That was welcome news to his six children, who used to beg him to take a day off from his relentless training rides.

“Daddy if you don’t go training, nobody needs to know, we won’t tell anybody!” Voigt related, with a big grin.

Pat Povilaitis, 'The Human Vise,' bends hammer behind his neck at Marty's Reliable Cycle Rep Night. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Pat Povilaitis, ‘The Human Vise,’ bends hammer behind his neck at Marty’s Reliable Cycle Rep Night. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Of course, domestic life is not without its own challenges.  When Voigt hung up his racing cleats, his wife produced a to-do list “from here to the Empire State Building,” the cyclist joked.

And he must adjust to full-time residence in a home that includes two dogs, a cat, nine rabbits, and his mother-in-law.

Voigt’s future may include some TV commentating, the Iditarod sled dog race and perhaps, a visit to Morristown for the fifth annual Gran Fondo NJ on Sept. 13, 2015.

Marty Epstein extended an invitation during the Q & A in Randolph. (See Voigt’s response, near the end of the lively 35-minute video above.)

And after some rest, how about a return to bicycle racing?

Voigt has not ruled that out, either — albeit in a new role.

“Maybe I’ll wait at the bottom and keep the beer cold!”

MORE ABOUT THE GRAN FONDO NJ

 

Former pro racer Jens Voigt, top left, with Marty Epstein, second from right, with crew from Marty's Reliable Cycle. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Former pro racer Jens Voigt, top left, with Marty Epstein, second from right, with crew from Marty’s Reliable Cycle. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
CALL THE VISE SQUAD! Pat Povilaitis, 'The Human Vise,' rips deck of card in half, through an engine block, at Marty's Reliable Cycle Rep Night. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
CALL THE VISE SQUAD! Pat Povilaitis, ‘The Human Vise,’ rips deck of cards in half, through an engine block, at Marty’s Reliable Cycle Rep Night. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

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