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The Saxo Bank fire sale continues as Jens Voigt confirmed that he will join the new Luxembourg Project team alongside Andy and Franck Schleck, among other former riders that have left Bjarne Riis’ program since the Tour de France. While the team is new for 2011, with many staff and riders moving over from Saxo Bank, the German said that it’s as if he is not transferring at all.
“To me it’s like I’m not leaving the team, I’m sort of like staying with the team because on a daily basis, I work with Kim Andersen, Torsten Schmidt,” Voigt said. “After the Tour Down Under, I had at least one of the Schleck brothers in my team at every race – Trofeo Mallorca, Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, Tour de France.”
Voigt began discussions with Andersen and the Schlecks after they confirmed that the team would take the road next season. “Andy and Franck said, ‘Hey, listen Jens, we have been racing together for seven years and would really like to keep you,’” said Voigt. “I started thinking what I wanted to do, what I should do. I never made a secret out of the fact that I was and still I am really happy in this team.”
The German veteran said he was conflicted on whether to leave Riis, with whom he has ridden since 2004. “Great things happened to me over the years,” he said. “They gave me the chance to explore my limits, to push my limits, to go out and push myself and to be a part of a Tour de France winning team with Carlos Sastre.”
When it came down to it, Voigt said that two factors drove the decision to leave Riis: a desire to stay with his close friends the Schlecks and Stuart O’Grady, who was confirmed earlier this month; and he needed to infuse energy into his career with a change in environment. “After seven years, you get really comfortable with everybody and you might lose that sharp edge that makes the difference between being a winner and somebody that just rides for placing,” said Voigt. “I don’t want to be the boring, established rider who takes a paycheck and says, ‘Yeah, I’ll do whatever you want.’”
“They’re really close friends of mine and I’m just really happy to keep that group together,” said Voigt. “I would just love to keep this group of people together because I love them, I trust them, I like to work with them.”
The new Luxembourg Project team, which has not yet announced a title sponsor, will in large part be a reincarnation of Saxo Bank. The new squad will pull everyone from mechanics and soigneurs to sports directors from Riis, who has signed embattled Alberto Contador to fill the shoes of the Schleck brothers. Riders expected to join the squad include Andy and Franck Schleck, Stuart O’Grady, Jacob Fugalsang and potentially Fabian Cancellara, though he is reportedly yet to sign. That large-scale shift will allow Voigt to re-energize without putting his final years in the sport at risk.
“Except for the colors, nothing really changes,” he said.
Voigt, 39, joined Riis at CSC after leaving Crédit Agricole in 2004 and has since grown into one of the most revered – and hardest working – riders in the sport. The German should take his familiar place amongst the faces supporting the Schleck brothers in the grand tours in 2011.
“I would just love to keep this group of people together because I love them, I trust them, I like to work with them,” he said.
But of the hard-nosed, long breakaways – the German said those may be a thing of the past: “Now they don’t ask me to win any crazy stages or anything.”
As one of the elder statesmen of the peloton, Voigt acknowledged that he has only a year or two left in the sport. But, he said, the younger riders will have to ride him off the back before he retires.
“I mean, of course you have to face it one day, but I’m not going to give it up for free,” he said.