Voigt preparing for what could be final season
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Voigt preparing for what could be final season

by Conal Andrews at 11:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

One of cycling’s toughest and most charismatic riders, Jens Voigt, is counting down the days until the start of what could well be his final year competing in the sport.

Now 38 years of age, he’s been a professional since 1997 and has carved out a career as an aggressive, attacking rider who has primarily worked for others, but who has also been able to take some very significant wins. His palmares include two stages in the Tour de France, one stage in the Giro d’Italia, two Deutschland Tours plus a record five wins in the Critérium International.

The last image many TV viewers saw of him this year was a sickening faceplant when he crashed on the descent of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. There were fears that his career was over but he fought back, returning in time for the Tour of Missouri.

Since then, he’s been getting ready for the new season, braving vile weather at home in Germany prior to flying to the warmth of Australia.

“At the moment we are lucky if you stay alive out there in the cold but, slowly, the focus goes from the pure basics slowly towards intervals,” the popular rider said in an interview with Eurosport. “I will start my season at the Tour Down Under – that means there are still three weeks to go, then the first ProTour race is coming up. You cannot, of course, be totally unprepared at the start.”

Voigt would love to perform well there but his first major target of the season is likely to be Paris-Nice. He describes it as a race that he cares about, and he and the rest of the Saxo Bank team often fare well there.

“This year we will have a very good team at the start. Juan Jose Haedo will be there for the sprint and one of the Schleck brothers [for the overall]. In 2009 Frank was second and I was sixth. Of course, we will target a similar result again.”

After that, a sixth win in the Criterium International will be a big motivator. This time round, the race will be held in Corsica. Some see it as a try-out by ASO prior to possibly starting the Tour de France there in 2013; Voigt will be long-retired then, but would like to perform well in this year’s Tour.

“One must indeed be a bit realistic. I will probably not be able to win the Tour,” he said, showing some humour. “I’ve known that since the age of 38 and understand. But it is also a great goal, to be part of this machinery and movement, which must function perfectly in order to help one of the Schleck brothers towards Tour victory.”

In 2009 Andy Schleck was the closest rival to Alberto Contador, climbing superbly and limiting his losses in the time trials. The Luxembourg rider edged out seven-time winner Lance Armstrong and will aim to match – or preferably better – that performance in July 2010.

Armstrong is also fully focussed on the yellow jersey and while he may be just one day younger than Voigt, the German feels that he can be in the running.

“Bjarne is not so optimistic, but I think he [Armstrong] can do it,” Voigt explained. “He has been missing only a little this year, and next time he will have a whole season in his legs…he can draw on that. I would rather tip him than, for example, Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans. I think the podium will look very much like this year: one of the Schlecks, Contador and Lance.”

For Voigt, his own personal goal in the Tour and in general this season is to ride well, give everything, and be able to call it quits feeling good about his achievements.

“In all honesty, I still don’t feel that I have got everything out of me,” he said, explaining what motivates him at this age. “Then [when that happens], I can say with a sigh of relief, ‘so, that’s it. Now I want to have peace and quiet.

“It doesn’t have to come to an end with a win, but I will decide when it is and not be forced by fate.”

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