I’ll spare you my observations on this year’s Tour de France, which I am enjoying mightily. Today, with three huge Alpine climbs, features both grueling riding and gorgeous scenery; I’m watching a descent through a series of steep hairpin turns as we speak. But I will share one thing, because Jason Gay’s recent article, Nobody Suffers Like Jens Voigt, in the Wall Street Journal is an excellent example of sports journalism. Gay writes about everybody’s favorite member of the peloton with the same energy, joy, and wit that Voigt brings to cycling:
But Voigt is cycling’s beloved superfreak, a cult object on two wheels. Cycling fans can be combative—they will argue about riders, teams, doping charges, seat angles, handlebar tape, frame materials, the coffee, and then the handlebar tape some more—but Jens is a rare point of agreement. Everybody loves Jens.
Voigt is adored because he rides a bike like it’s his last day on it. He is full gas, always. A race like the Tour de France can be maddeningly conservative—riders at the top of the standings watch each other, cover attacks, avoid risks, do just enough to cling to their position.
But Jens? Jens pummels the race. He rides like he’s fleeing a bank heist. He rides like he’s got a paper route with 100,000 papers. Voigt on a bike is a boxing match—relentless, confrontational, jabbing, punching, attacking.
Over his long career, Voigt has won big races, including Tour stages. But that’s not why he recently got 40,000 followers in a couple days after opening his Twitter account, or why there’s a jensvoigtfacts.com website with Chuck Norris-type tributes. (“Sharks have a Jens Voigt Week.”)
Jens Voigt’s energy, enthusiasm, joy, and endurance reflect his passion and sense of life and good-natured wit, and Gay has captured that well with excellent, lively writing.