Even if you do not know who Jens Voigt is, you have most certainly heard the phrase “shut up legs.” This statement was made famous by Jens during his long and storied career that included an historic 14 Tour de France race completions. He not only coined the phrase that so many connect with, but also rode with the style described by those three famous words.
“Shut Up Legs”
Jens has always had a can-do attitude and was unrelenting when adversity was present. He rode with the attitude that the bike, the race and even his legs were simply tools with which he could use to create his will. He would drive hard out of the peloton, establish a breakaway and then be the only guy left in the break at the end.
Often times his efforts were not met with the reward of a stage win, but rather the gratitude of the effort he put in so that his team leader never had to work. His loyalty was to his team, his team leader, and ultimately, to his belief that anything was possible if he just kept going – “shut up legs.”
The only rider in recent history that can be compared to Jens’s style of riding and his level of commitment to the task is Thomas De Gendt. De Gendt has stated that he launches from the peloton and sets to riding 500 watts for five minutes. If another rider can hang with him during that time, then he deserves to be in the break and will be a contributing member of the break.
This hard man’s approach to riding is something that all amateur cyclists can relate to. What the common club level cyclist may not have in natural ability, they can often make up for in their ability to suffer. Persistence pays off in one way or another.
In 2009, Jens was forced to retire the race due to a horrendous crash that occurred while descending with the Yellow jersey group that left him with some facial injuries. When the next year came around, he knew he wasn’t going to let it happen again.
During the 2010 Tour, he crashed after the first climb of stage 16 and saw that all the team vehicles and neutral support vehicles were well ahead of him. He realized his chances of finishing the stage, much less the race, were looking slim…
This is where we see the heart of a champion, the heart of a Wahooligan.
When everything looks like it is going the wrong way, persistence and commitment to the goal remain present. It is this attitude that made him press forward and ask for a youth bike from a group that was following the race. The bike was way too small for him and did not have his pedal system on it. He rode awkwardly for approximately 20 kilometers until he was able to get a team bike left for him on the side of the road. (Don’t worry the kid got his bike back and a story to go with it.)
Jens barely made the cut off time that day, but he rode into Paris a few days later. It is this kind of attitude that makes the Tour so special.
Every rider has their own challenge – whether that is fighting for Yellow, sprinting for Green, ascending for Polka Dots or simply trying to get to Pairs in one piece. All athletes can relate to setting a goal and the rising above the challenges that face them along the way to achieving it.