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.
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.
“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!”
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?
“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.
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!”