ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) – Jens Voigt just couldn’t help himself.
The flag had barely dropped in the 51km criterium to open a week of racing in Australia when the 41-year-old surged off the front. By the end of lap one of the hourlong race, Voigt was gone.
“First race, first attack,” Voigt said with a laugh at the finish line. “It crossed my mind this morning. I may as well do something stupid and get it going.”
Despite the turmoil over the past days and months with the Lance Armstrong scandal, or perhaps in spite of it, Voigt and the other riders lining up for the People’s Choice criterium were ready to race their bikes.
Voigt wanted to kick-start what is likely to be his final year as a pro with a bang.
The veteran German knew he had no chance of winning against a herd of sprinters ¬– André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) later took the flowers ¬– but that was never going to stop him.
Latching onto his wheel was 24-year-old Zak Dempster (UNI SA-Australia) and they were off. The pair built a lead, never one big enough to seriously hope for victory, but enough to scoop up four primes.
Voigt was clearly enjoying himself. Every time he rode past the team cars, where the sport directors and mechanics were watching the race, Voigt would stick out his tongue and smile like a hyena.
“I am just an old German diesel,” he said. “The self-belief began to rise. We were getting close to lapping them … ha-ha, no, we really had no chance to win. But it was fun.”
Dempster picked up all four primes. Voigt never challenged him and let the local rider have his moment of glory.
“He’s a local kid, why steal his thunder?” Voigt said. “I think the kid was half my age.”
Voigt, who made a name for himself with his attacking style, said he actually won a crit back in his amateur days racing in the former East Germany.
“When I was an amateur, I lapped the field once, then I dropped them and lapped them again to win,” he said. “That was back in the last Ice Age.”
Voigt starts the 2013 season as the oldest rider in the pack and is staring retirement right in the face.
His attack Sunday was good for a laugh, but Voigt also wanted to send a signal. He promises to keep fighting and racing at the top level, at least as long as he can.
“It is not definitely my final season, but very likely,” he said. “I am not getting any younger. I want to have a great last season. I will keep racing at a high level. I don’t want people to say that old Jensie stayed around too long and didn’t know when to quit.”
Voigt promises that Sunday’s attack will not be his last.
“Now people will know who took the first attack this year,” he said. “I will never learn to get smart. … I am still doing the stupid things.”
If there’s a bike, and Voigt is in the field, everyone knows what’s going to happen. Enjoy it while you can.