By Ben Delaney

The last time many American fans saw Jens Voigt on television, he was sliding along the road on his face, unconscious. Many of those fans in St. Louis saw a much healthier Voigt take the start of the Tour of Missouri Monday, and gave him big cheers.

Voigt said he didn’t know what to expect in his return, but that it definitely felt good to be racing in the states.

“Without blowing my own trumpet, it looks like I’m really popular [here],” he said.

In Missouri, Voigt said he’s just looking to rebuild fitness and help his teammates, such as Gustav Larsson who could do well in the time trial, and JJ Haedo, who took second on stage 1.

“I told the guys, look, this is my first race back. I’m not going to lead out the sprint yet,” he said. “First of all, I don’t have the punch power. But second, I’m just trying to gain some confidence back into the bike, myself and into my riding skills.”

The Tour crash was the first in 10 years that forced Voigt to abandon. “I have of course had plenty of crashes, but I never had a race that ended in a hospital.”

As to whether the crash shook his confidence, the 37-year-old said he tries not to think about it. “If I start to think, ‘maybe I shouldn’t go back on the bike,’ then I’m really lost. And you know, I’ve got a house and five kids to feed, so I’ve got no choice!”

Voigt said his kids picked him up at the airport in Berlin five days after the Tour crash.

“When they picked me up, my boys said, ‘daddy, you’re such a hero.’ I asked why. ‘Because you’re like number two on YouTube downloads.’ I’m like, are you crazy? I would rather be healthy and be last in downloads,” he said. “The girls were a little more concerned.”