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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (VN) — Asked Tuesday whether fans would have the opportunity to see the patented “Jens Voigt attack” during Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge, the German strongman was coy.
“Well, I don’t know,” Voigt told VeloNews. “I’m giving [my opportunities] a look every day, but I’m afraid I may be a little bit a victim of my own success. The last year I raced in America I won a stage in Colorado, then this year I won at the Amgen Tour of California.”
“So of course now [the other riders] say, ‘I don’t think we’ll let him go.’ Or people go, ‘If he goes it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good group. I want to be with him.’ But there can’t be 50 people together. It’s a compliment that people try to chase me, but it makes my life a lot harder.”
But then Jens Voigt has never been one to shy away from hard.
The RadioShack-Leopard veteran joined a five-man breakaway just 11 kilometers into Wednesday’s third stage, from Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs.
The group, which included Cascade Classic winner Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Kenda), Davide Villella (Cannondale), Joshua Edmondson (Sky), and Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman), worked as a unit until approximately 50km to go, when Villella — a teammate of eventual stage winner Peter Sagan — stopped pulling.
Voigt said it was his cue to “go all in.”
“I attacked because I saw the group falling apart, due to different interests,” Voigt recounted at the post-race press conference. “If you have five riders and one stops, it creates an imbalance; it just doesn’t work. Before it was like a fellowship, we tried to work together and protect each other from the wind. But once it became five individuals wanting to win, I decided an attack was the best defense.”
By the time the German hit the final ascent of Rabbit Ears Pass some 25km later, he had developed a lead of 2:25, despite a strong headwind.
“I had a breakaway in mind this morning,” said Voigt. “I knew I was up for it. I know I’m not going to win the TT, so I said, ‘there’s no reason for me to hold back.’ Sometimes it’s for the best if no one expects you’re going to go, and you go.”
For a time it appeared that the popular German would pull off the win. As he passed 5km from the finish, fans in Steamboat Springs began to chant, “Jensie! Jensie!”
But with Sagan’s Cannondale team steadily closing with help from Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies, among others, Voigt realized the break wouldn’t stick.
“With 5 or 6km to go, I did a quick calculation of how much time I was going to need in this headwind and how fast [the chase was] going,” he said. “I figured this might be a little too short today, so I saw [the catch] coming, but I’m still disappointed.”
The Dutch Argos-Shimano team of eventual runner-up Luka Mezgec overtook Voigt with approximately 3km to go, but it was Sagan who sealed his second win in three days.
At the finish, Voigt — who finished the stage 73rd, with the same time as Sagan — expressed his disappointment with the outcome.
“I know I should be pleased, but I’m disappointed because it was so close,” he said. “It was right there. I could almost taste it. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go, ‘It was still a good performance,’ but there were a lot of younger guys.”
At 41 years of age, Voigt has teased his retirement over a period of years, but announced this week that he would ride for at least one additional year with the newly formed Trek pro cycling team — where he will stay with current teammates Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara, as well as RadioShack general manager Luca Guercilena.
Voigt admitted that his age may be catching up with him, if even just a little.
“I’m sure that three or four years ago, I would have won this [stage] with one leg behind my back, you know? I probably would have made it easily,” he said. “But today I think there was just too much headwind. Constantly headwind, so there was never really a chance to recover anywhere. 50km to go alone against the peloton was just a little too much … but that doesn’t stop me from going anyway.”
Asked whether he planned to try to attack again on Thursday’s fourth stage, from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek, Voigt slumped jokingly in his chair.
“In less than a month I’ll be 42,” he said. “Give me some rest, I’m an old man here.”