|Jens Voigt started his fifteenth Tour de France in 2012 at the age of forty with his Luxembourg-based cycling team, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek. The Luxembourg-based cycling team entered the race without general classification contender and 2010 Tour de France winner, Andy Schleck due to injury. Despite not having their main leader, RadioShack-Nissan has made an impressive Tour de France for themselves up to this point with winning the prologue, having the yellow jersey for seven days and leading the teams' classification.
In the interview below, the 40 year old German rider chats with Daily Peloton about the 2012 Tour de France, RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, the Tour favorites and more. We caught up with Jens after his stage 9 individual time trial, before he began his official rest day.
Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek). Photo © RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
Luke Allingham - Hi Jens, how are you doing? How is the 2012 Tour de France going up to this point?
Well as far as we are concerned, it's okay. We won the prologue, we had the yellow jersey for seven days, I believe we still lead the team's classification, so it looks good for us. Of course we would have liked that Frank (Schleck) didn't crash, but apart from that I think we can pretty good through the first week and we defended the yellow jersey for a week. Today Fabian (Cancellara) had another good performance on the time trial, still on the podium today, so it was a good first part of the Tour for us.
Luke Allingham - RadioShack-Nissan had to defend the yellow jersey for the first week of the Tour for Fabian Cancellara - how did that go? What does it take for a team to defend the yellow jersey for a whole week?
It depends, now the way the race was and the profile was this year we did receive help from the sprinter teams' - Lotto for Greipel, Liquigas for Sagan, a little bit of GreenEdge for Gossy and for Baden Cooke, so it was not only us that had to ride tempo. Of course we had to control it first and we had initial first hour or initial first fifty or one hundred kilometers of riding, but it is not like we had to completely kill ourselves completely to do it. We had a little bit of help and it turned out actually okay for us and it helped us to stay safe and to stay ahead of most of the crashes.
Luke Allingham - Going into the second week of the Tour de France - can you tell us what the team strategy will be in the mountainous stages? Who is the team leader in the second and third week of the Tour (Andreas Kloden, Chris Horner, Frank Schleck)?
Well, we are going to have some sort of team meeting tomorrow on the rest day to reevaluate the situation, to discuss what we want to do, what can we do, what our plans, desire or hopes for the second week of the Tour and then we will make a new strategy. I think, as you just mentioned, we have Kloden who is solid, we have Frank looking pretty solid, I know he lost time in the crash, but he still looks strong. We have Chris Horner who looks to be pretty good too, so we definitely would like to do an attack and go out there and try to do some interesting, spectacular riding and hopefully claim a stage win.
Luke Allingham - There have been lots of crashes during the first week of the Tour this year, including a stage 6 crash that took down many general classification contenders and some sprinters. What are these crashes typically caused by in the first week of racing? Should we expect to see more crashes in the next two weeks of racing?
We definitely expect less crashes in the second week, because people just know places better now and we have a hard mountain stage after the rest day so automatically there is one-hundred guys or one-hundred fifty guys who cannot win that day, so they don't need to push for position at the front anymore.
In the first week, everyone is fresh, motivated, ready to go, ready to takes risks and in the first week everyone thinks he's a sprinter world champion and can win, that actually settles down quite a lot in the second week because people realize - okay, this is my place and I stay here where my place is. It's going to be for sure safer and a little bit more peaceful. It should be a bit more relaxing in the stages from now on. The Tour is our biggest and most beautiful race, but also the most stressful race. Because it is so important, people tend to take crazy or even stupid risks sometimes.
That crash where so many riders crashed, I think it was going into Metz, that was caused because somebody tried to take a shoe cover off; I mean come on, what are you thinking taking a shoe cover off at 70 kilometers per hour. These things weigh like 5 grams, why not just keep them on and race with them to the finish line. I have to say a lot of times the fault is us, of the riders. We just do not give each other enough respect or space; it is too much fighting, useless fighting for positions and it just results in all these terrible crashes we have.
Luke Allingham - Team RadioShack-Nissan went into this year's Tour without team leader Andy Schleck due to injury - what has been the effect without Andy in the Tour this year?
Well, we had some time to get used to that situation, because after his crash in the Dauphiné and his abandon there, it looked like he was really struggling with the after consequences of that crash and then it came out, "Yes, he has a broken bone", and cannot do the Tour, so we had some time to adjust our strategy to that and now we're racing in a different strategy. As I said, we are going to focus maybe more on some stage wins in the Pyrenees and Alps.
Jens Voigt after finishing his individual time trial on stage nine. Photo © Dana Gardner
Luke Allingham - The team had some negative press before the Tour started, but seems to be turned around after the first week of the Tour. Do you think it is true that the press about the team has turned from negative to positive after the first week of racing?
Well, I would never like to use the word negative in the same sentence with the mention of my team, so maybe there was one or two things where it was not exactly perfect, but I think we settled all those problems and I think now we have some really good momentum going. You can see it starting in Tour of Luxembourg with the win of our team, we won the team classification G.C and the individual classification, we looked strong in the Tour de Suisse, now we had the yellow jersey here and another team of us won the race in Austria, so we definitely have a good momentum going.
We believe this is the place we belong and this is the place where we should be; we are a good team with a whole bunch of good riders in the team and that's what we should do, so in the moment, as far as I am concerned, it looks pretty good for us.
Luke Allingham - After the first two mountain stages Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is in the yellow jersey and is one of the overall favorites to win the race. In your opinion, do you think that Wiggins can keep yellow until Paris and win the 2012 Tour?
Well, as far as I have experienced in the last years, the development of riders, the shape of the riders in the Tour, it's a process which is sort of like happening in one straight line; it either goes straight in a line or slightly downhill in a line or slightly uphill in one line, there is not really like major breakdowns or miracle comebacks anymore. People arrive at the Tour in close to perfect position or close to perfect condition and normally whatever happened during the first week, it stays like that, so yes, I would say Wiggins has a really fair chance of winning the Tour de France.
He did some races - he was very strong in Paris-Nice, he was strong in the Dauphiné to win that, so we'll see if he can keep a high level up, but in the moment, it looks like, yes, he is the man.
Luke Allingham -At 40 years old you are racing your 15th Tour de France - at this point in the race, how are you feeling physically?
Surprisingly good. Okay, I had a little bit of pain in my legs this morning when I woke up, but that is easy to explain after a hard day like yesterday, so I am pretty happy the way the body still holds up. I can still do the work that is required or that my team expects from me, so I am pretty pleased with my condition in the moment.
Luke Allingham - Some of our readers would like to know - how much longer do you plan to race? Do you have a certain time in mind that you would like to retired from bicycle racing?
I take it not day by day, but year by year. I would say in the moment, as I just said, I am feeling okay, I am feeling good, I'm enjoying what I am doing and I get some positive feedback from the fans, from supporters, so I feel that there is another year in me, but as you can imagine in the age of 40, it is hard to get a two year or three year contract, so as I said, I take it year after year.
Luke Allingham - Can you tell us what happens on the RadioShack-Nissan team bus both before and after a stage of Tour de France?
On the transfer to the bus - people do whatever: look at the results from last day, read newspapers, read a book or just simply listen to music. As soon as we stop the bus on the parking - the first thing we do is have a team meeting where we go through the day's tactics and then you just get ready. Put the jersey on, put your radio in the jersey, get your bottles, go for sign on and start the race.
After the race you try more or less as quick as you can to the team bus, because you really have this desire for a nice cool shower after being out there in the sun for four or five hours and sweating; you just want to have a quick shower to feel human again. Then you can have something to eat, a quick bite, a recovery drink and then if there is a request for you, you go out and meet the press and focus on fans, talk to the press. As soon as everybody is ready, jump in the bus and drive to next hotel.
Follow Jens Voigt on his personalTwitter account or follow Team RadioShack-Nissan on their Facebook and Twitter accounts