Jens Voigt – This is the Way I Knew I Must Say Goodbye
German cyclist Jens Voigt recently finished his last Tour de France, causing an outpouring of nice warm fuzzy feelings in the cycling community.
Jens finished the Tour de France – that is cycling around France for 3 weeks an astonishing 14 times. His highest placing being 28th in 2007.
For those outside the cycling community, it can seem a closed event and the tactics and team formations confusing.
Cyclists like Jens Voigt are called domestiques (the literal translation from French meaning “servant”) and it it their job to do all the grunt work on behalf of the team.
Simple physics tells us that cycling behind someone else uses 25-35% less energy than cycling in the wind because a lot of energy is spent just pushing air out of the way.
Domestiques will fetch water bottles, food and spare clothing from the team car, shelter their team leader from the wind or other elements, sacrifice a wheel or even their whole bike if it will advance the position of their team leader.
So why is Jens Voigt a great example of the awareness ladder?
Amongst other things, Jens is noted for his attacking riding style and aggressive breakaways – that is trying to ride away from the group in an attempt to win the race. However, a group of riders will generally ride faster than a single rider and as a result, breakaways almost always get caught.
So why do it?
As Jens himself says – in a group – the chances of the stage win are zero. There will always be someone faster than you in a group of up to 200 riders. (Star riders like Mark Cavendish).
In a breakaway – the chances of success increase to 1 in a million.
Still very small but much better odds. (The rest of the chasing field could all crash, get held up by a sudden rain storm or other weather intervention, misjudge how fast they need to go to catch the breakaway. Anything).
Jens does have race wins to his name – not many – but far more than other domestiques in similar teams.
It is important to remember that having a reputation for mindless attacks does nothing to endear him to the wider sporting community. (Except maybe in Germany).
They STILL don’t understand cycling. And it is important to point out that Jens hasn’t yet retired from cycling – he has just secured his place at the top of the cycling awareness ladder when he does.
So in the last day of his final Tour de France – with the whole (cycling) world watching – what did Jens do on the laps of Champs Elysee?
Attacked off the front of the field.
One the final day of the 2014 tour, it was only fitting that Jens made a final fling for glory in Paris – as he said after
Of course he was chased down and caught (as usual) but it was interesting to note that the peloton (main field) actually left him there for a lap or so – to let him take in the atmosphere one last time.
As a double whammy – Jens attacked almost at the start of the much-hyped first British stage of the 2014 tour and although his breakaway was caught a long way from the finish, he took the King of the Mountains jersey and the award for the Le Prix de la Combativité (most aggressive rider) on day 1 and a spell in front of the TV cameras for his team sponsors.
The awareness ladder is a concept where you use what you have done in sport to reach as wide a group of people as possible.
Jens Voigt doing what he does best on the Buttertubs pass in the Yorkshire Dales. 5th July 2014
Editors Note: Our good friend Jonathan Senior sent us this article. Jonathan works with ex-athletes and sports people to help them work out what to do after sport. He has developed a number of management and marketing concepts to help with this. The “awareness ladder” is a tool which helps athletes work out how to use what they have done in the pool, pitch or track as a long term competitive advantage in business.
Jonathan is an ironman triathlete and a qualified athletics coach as well as being the author of The Crucial Decision www.thecrucialdecision.com and can be contacted via www.sharp-end-training.co.uk