It's been ten years since Jens Voigt rode his first Tour Down Under. On Sunday night, at the People's Choice Classic, the event's warm-up criterium, the 41-year-old was determined to put on a show, his way of saying thanks in what is likely to be his final appearance racing at the Australian WorldTour event.
"We had a little easy ride this morning and I said: 'You know what? I don't have a chance of winning anyway so I might as well do something silly and show myself, entertain the crowd,'” Voigt told Cyclingnews after the race. "I did get a nice big cheer yesterday at the team presentation and just a way to say thank you to them. To say thanks for welcoming me and now I'm here to entertain you."
Voigt, one of the most popular members of the peloton, went on the attack from the opening lap. Along with Zak Dempster (UniSA - Australia), the pair opened up a gap that was as large as 57 seconds before being reeled in by the peloton, which was being driven by Lotto Belisol, with nine laps to go.
In 2012, it was thought that the race would be his last time in Australia but after deciding to race for at least one more year, it was only fitting that he would once again kick off his season in Australia.
"It's a good kick-start for my old diesel engine to shake off the dust from the winter and get it going," he explained. "It's nice, short, vicious, and that's what I need to get my body a kick-start to get into the season."
Voigt admits that reviewing his plans for retirement for one more season has become a recurring trope in recent years. "I keep saying that," he said. Even on Sunday night, he was unwilling to say "definitely" instead choosing "very, very probably" but it's a privilege he's willing to take advantage of.
"Already last year I started to just soak up the emotion," Voigt said. "Soak up the audience, the feeling that people get across. Yes I do try and profit from it because maybe it's my last year. Really if you look at it, it's a great job."
Voigt admits that not that much has changed in his 17 seasons as a professional, but what he has gained is perspective
"I'm a little bit more relaxed about it," he suggests. "I still get excited; I'm still focused but I also see now with the kids I have and family life that there's more things in life than performing, and power output, counting watts and the calories you eat."
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