Jens Voigt’s Finest Hour

  2014 USPC #FarewellJens (8) If we’re honest, time never stood a chance against Jens Voigt. The German revisited the hour record and increased the record set in 2005, by Ondrej Sosenka. Sosenka’s record was 49.7 kilometers, Voigt’s new mark is a full 1.4 kilometers farther than the old record, totaling 51.115 kilometers. Voigt announced his retirement to be effective at the end of the 2014 season last year. Last month he had quite an end in Colorado, racing the USA Pro Challenge. The big German diesel rode in seemingly every breakaway and just when we thought it was over, Voigt announced he had one more trick up his sleeve: the hour record. As quickly as Trek could turn around memorabilia, soon ?Shut up hour!? was seen all over cycling media everywhere. What we did not know was that Voigt had been planning this assault since the Dauphine in June. With the help of his Trek Factory Racing team, Voigt underwent some baseline tests at the Roubaix Velodrome. Running his traditional time trial bike, Voigt left the session believing the record was, ?Very possible.? After getting the green light from his teammate, Fabian Cancellara, who was planning on his own attempt at the record himself, Voigt and the Trek team went all in. A rapid adaptive process began to make Trek’s time trial bike resemble a track pursuit bike. The rear end was modified to fit the heavy duty track cog, the front end simplified, and the chain rings aligned with the rear cog. For our understanding, those are all the important changes.  

Peloton Cafe || Jens Voigt - Hour Record
Peloton Cafe || Jens Voigt – Hour Record (image copyright Ulf Schiller
The neat part, they told no one about their intentions. Kept it to themselves they did. Fast forward to the moment of truth. The stage was set, Jens was ready, and the crowds primed. The top three distances were as follows…

Eddy Merckx 49.431 kilometers

Chris Boardment 49.441 kilometers

Ondrej Sosenka 49.7 kilometers.

Which meant, Voigt needed to travel 199 laps to become the new record holder. His first lap was 23.574 seconds. The rest, every single one of them, were sub 18 seconds. Voigt, always known for his savage pedaling style, seemed hardly recognizable. The giant German was smooth as silk – his pedal stroke round, his upper body motionless, his cadence high. His three week crash course in track riding was a huge success. After 5 kilometers, Voigt was just outside the record set by his predecessors. Over such a distance, setting the perfect pace is paramount. Eddy Merckx famously went full gas through the first 15 kilometers of his attempt and suffered in the end. Similarly, Sosenka faded in his attempt too. On the opposite side of the coin, Boardman increased his pace over the hour. Like Boardman before him, Jens was only getting started at 5 kilometers.

5k Time Splits

Jvoigt 6:00.954

Merckx 5:55.7

Boardman 6:04.016

Sosenka 6:00.42

After the effort was through, Jens joked ?The first 10 minutes I could not feel the pedals and thought, ?Oh this is easy!? Indeed, he was making it look easy, nearly matching Sosenka’s time while keeping Merckx within shouting distance.

10k Time Split

Voigt 12:01.336

Merckx 11:52

Boardman 12:03.889

Sosenka 12:00.59

As clock clicked by, Jens began eclipsing the records of the past. The 20 kilometer mark injected a fresh shot of energy into the Swiss velodrome crowd. Jens was on pace to beat the record. It was around this mark that Merckx began to feel the effects of his infernal pace during his 1972 attempt in Mexico City. Even though Boardman and Sosenka paced themselves better, they were still 20 plus seconds slower than Voigt through 20 kilometers.

20k Time Split

Voigt 23.39.198

Merckx 24:07

Boardman 24:06.9

Sosenka 24:03.05

In May, when the rule changes were announced, permitting UCI legal track bikes to be used, most fans knew Sosenka’s record was doomed. The aerodynamic difference between the standard bikes that Merckx, Boardman, and Sosenka used and a pursuit bike are night and day. It was then little shock when Voigt rolled through his 85th lap more than 1000 meters ahead of the record pace. 2014 USPC #FarewellJens (11) According to Voigt ?I went on cruising speed from 20-40 minutes. But I could feel at that speed I was good, I could hold on to this speed, I am not going to break down or slow down.? Hold his advantage he did. At 30 kilometers, the picture looked like this.

30k Time Split

Voigt 35:32.761

Merckx 36:17

Boardman: 36:18.409

Sosenka: 36:06.73

Time seemed to stand still as he went round and round the velodrome. His posture never betraying the herculean effort he was exerting. It was not until 40 minutes had elapsed that Voigt began jumping out of the saddle. Professional road cyclists rarely stay put for very long. They bounce on the pedals, reach for a bottle, snag a bite to eat, check their computer, anything to move about. This new challenge forced Voigt to stay rigid, firm, and unwavering.

PelotonCafe II 2014 USA Pro Challenge (Image copyright: Kit Hinders)
PelotonCafe II 2014 USA Pro Challenge (Image copyright: Kit Hinders)
At 40 kilometers, the German was a cruise missile set for the new Hour Record – nearly a minute up on Sosenka’s old record. During those last minutes of pedaling, Voigt said he had the opportunity to enjoy the momentous occasion. Going through that 40 kilometer mark, his average speed was 50.75. When asked what his goals were before his ride, Voigt stated ?I will do 50.5 kilometers. Anything extra is a bonus.?

40k Time Splits:

Voigt 47:16.668

Merckx 48:32

Boardman 48:33.402

Sosenka 48:15.32

As the clock struck 50 minutes, Voigt lit up the velodrome. In those last ten minutes, Jens ratcheted up his pace from 50.75 up past 51 kilometers per hour. He began sprinting out of each corner. The crowd leapt to their feet. It was one last push for the 43 year old. His new found grace flew out the window. As his jaw dropped in exhaustion, his pedaling grew more violent. In the audience, kids waved flags, old men clapped, and women whistled. Not a soul was left unmoved as Jens closed in on the record. Hindsight is 20/20 in almost all scenarios. Looking back to the USA Pro Challenge it?s plain to see he was still training for something. On Stage 4, Voigt sprinted away from his fellow breakaway companions 27 miles, or exactly one hour, from the finish line. Vanderjuegd joked that the staff thought, ?Hmmph, guess he’s gone for his hour training now.? With more than a minute and a half to go, Voigt hit his mark, 49.7 kilometers. On he went, pushing the record further out into space. When the clock read zero, Jens Voigt had completed 205 laps, six more than he set out to do. His average speed was a new record: 51.115 kilometers an hour. A new world record.

The New Hour Record

Jens Voigt: 51.115 kilometers

Ondrej Sosenka: 49.700 Kilomters

Chris Boardman: 49.441 kilometers

Eddy Merckx 49.431 kilometers

So that’s it. Jens Voigt is finally retired. Probably. He morphed from roadie to track rider in three short weeks. Imagine what he could in the three months before Cyclocross Worlds…. Z

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