With 2012 likely to be his last year as a pro, Voigt reflects on the highest highs and the lowest lows of his career.
Hey, everyone! Well, it’s late in the year, and as may be the case for many of you, I often reflect on the year, or even life in general, around this time. I mean, what else are you supposed to do when you are out riding on an empty road with no traffic and no training partner? After all, you can’t stop your thoughts from wandering, can you?
The other day when I was pedaling along I spent most of the time reflecting on this one question, “Would I do it all over again?” It is something that has been on my mind because, well, I am probably facing my last season as a professional rider, and I am still working hard just to get my hand back in shape after my crash in the Tour of Britain.
In all fairness I can’t say, “Hey, yeah! It was all only fun!” You know, when it comes to real life, I would never say I know it all, or “Hey, I have seen everything!” But in cycling, I think I am in a position now where I should almost be allowed to say just that.
I have been a part of a winning Tour de France team with Carlos Sastre in 2008. And I will never forget winning the team competition that same year and standing on the podium on the Champs-Elysees in Paris with all my teammates. I’ll never forget that moment. Carlos was right there in the middle with his yellow jersey. That is just something you can never forget.
But then this year I experienced the terrifying loss my friend and teammate Wouter Weylandt when he crashed in the Tour of Italy. That also, unfortunately, I will never forget. So yes, I think I have experienced the highest highs and lowest lows imaginable, moments where you are desperate, disappointed, angry, frightened. You know, moments when you question everything and when you think, “What’s the point of going on?” And then there are the precious moments where you just think, “Oh, I wish this moment would last forever.”
I guess considering the amount of talent I possess, I would definitely say that I have had a good and happy career. But it has not just been a pleasure cruise! It’s funny, one day I started counting my injuries and I realized that I have had about 110 to 115 stitches all over my body, from my elbow to my fingers to my face. I’ve had seasons without crashing, and then I’ve had seasons where I crashed 10 times. Some crashes are easy—if crashing can ever be easy—but some are really difficult. The one in the 2009 Tour de France was a potential career-ending crash.
Overall, I’ve had about 10 broken bones, from my collarbone to my cheekbone. Or, as is the case with my most recent crash, several fractures all in one. There were times when I had several metal plates inside me to hold it all together, not to mention about 25 screws or nails over the years, which makes me feel like a cyborg now and then.
I’ve had some great personal victories. But you can never take anything for granted. I learned that early on. After winning the amateur world cup in 1994 I could not find a pro team that would take me. Finally, I signed with the small Giant-AIS Team in 1997, but when they folded a year later I was looking around again. It was only when I signed with Roger Legeay and the GAN Team (later Credit Agricole) that I found some security in the professional ranks. And let’s not talk about money! In the early years I earned so little that I had to borrow from my parents in order to be able to afford a small family holiday.
But then I won the Criterium International, in 1999, beating the TT world champion Abraham Olano, and things started to change. I also won the Bayern Tour in 2000, and later I had two fantastic wins in Tour of Germany (2006 and 2007). Both of those victories came in front of my home crowd that was just amazing. And, of course, I have twice worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and won three stages. So I have had plenty of lucky days too, plenty of moments in the spotlight.
So when I look back, I am convinced that my sport took a lot from me. It is just so demanding. But cycling has given me a lot too! So yes, in the end, I feel lucky. I found my place in life and have had the privilege to be able to turn my passion into my profession.
So the answer to “Would I do it all over again?” is a short but emphatic “Yes! I would do it all over again!” And that’s how life should be. You should be happy and convinced that you made the right choices in your life. And I am happy and proud that I can say just that!