NEW ORLEANS (VN) — It has been a little more than a year since Jens Voigt “officially” hung up his bike and called it a day after racking up an impressive 17-year professional cycling career.
The three-time grand tour stage winner, including two at the Tour de France (2001, 2006) and one at the Giro d’Italia (2008), has spent the past 14 months adjusting to his post-racing lifestyle — a life the 44-year-old German claims has perhaps been a bit more demanding than he first anticipated.
“As a pro cyclist, you have one job and that’s being a cyclist,” Voigt explained to VeloNews following a recent Trek Bikes promotional tour in Korea to launch the brand’s latest Domane. “You have one boss — your team — and you have a regular paycheck coming in every month.
“Now that I am retired, I have 15 different bosses and have 15 jobs to do, so I am trying to make everyone happy while at the same time trying not to burn myself out.”
Just three weeks removed from hosting more than 1,300 riders in the inaugural Jensie Gran Fondo of Marin, the Berlin native explains that budgeting and cash flow have become the biggest adjustments since walking away from competitive cycling.
“It’s funny, you start January with a big fat minus on the bank account and you hope it gets better later in the year,” said Voigt, who travels to Australia in two weeks before returning home to co-launch his new cycling kit range with Trek in December. “That was something new to me and I needed to adjust to that.
“You know I have six children, so I feel a bit of responsibility to provide food and shelter, basically.”
For Voigt, who enjoys a bit of “extra spending money” from his cycling brand Shut Up Legs, which is so named after the famous quote from the often outspoken rouleur, his retirement comes with no regrets.
“I’m in a lucky position in that I can honestly say that I left it all out there,” claimed Voigt, who returned to the sport on September 18, a day after his 43rd birthday and just three weeks following his retirement from Trek Factory Racing to break — and ultimately resurrect interest in — the hour record. “I squeezed everything out of myself — both mentally and physically — so I was happy that I stopped and I didn’t ride too much.
“I admit that while commentating for the Tour de France this year [for NBC], I did feel a bit nostalgic when I saw all the new bikes, kits and gear — the riders looked good, happy, and ready to go,” he continued. “That’s when I realized I’m not out there anymore.
“But then after a day or two of crashes, I was glad I wasn’t.”
Looking forward, the five-time Critérium International winner (1999, 2004, 2007-09) feels the sport has never been in better hands.
“There is a great generation of very good young riders coming up,” said Voigt. “I’m definitely excited about the future of pro cycling, especially in the English-speaking countries.
“Riders like Chris Froome, Tejay van Garderen, and Simon Gerrans are phenomenal talents.
“The sport doesn’t need an old man like me anymore.”
One rider that has caught Voigt’s eye is 25-year-old Australian Michael Matthews, who took silver at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond two months ago — just as his compatriot and Orica-GreenEdge teammate Gerrans did the year before in Ponferrada, Spain.
“I know Matthews may be disappointed with second place at the world championships this year, but there is no shame in losing to Peter Sagan — who is just a super strong rider.
“It is very likely that the young Aussie will become a world champion within the next five years.”
As far as the hour record is concerned after four successful attempts in seven tries since his record-smashing distance of 51.110 kilometers, Voigt believes only a select handful of riders have a chance to break the current mark of 54.526km set by new record holder Bradley Wiggins.
“At the moment it will be hard to match,” explained Voigt. “My guess, only four people could beat it. Wiggins, obviously, as well as Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin and young Italian Adriano Malori.”
When asked if he had any interest in reclaiming his fallen record, Voigt was quick to respond with a laugh.
“No, no, no… I’m retired for a year now, and I just don’t have it anymore,” he said.
“That said, while I may not hold the record anymore, Wiggins and I still have the same time in the hour record as we both rode for 60 minutes,” Voigt concluded jokingly.
“So that’s not too bad.”
Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.