The "retired" German may just spark an arms race—and that's great for cycling.
Less than two weeks after saying that he planned to hang up his bike for good and start getting fat, Jens Voigt has announced his intentions to try and beat the Hour Record.
The popular German will make his attempt in Vélodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland, on September 18. He'll be chasing the record of 49.7 kilometers (30.882 miles), which was set by Czech rider Andrej Sosenka back in 1995.
"It's a huge challenge for me, both physical and mental," said Voigt. "Everybody knows that Fabian [Cancellara] was working on it together with Trek, so when he decided to re-assess his plans because of the rule change, it sparked my interest."
Asked about his prospects, the German said he was optimistic. "We have been doing some discrete tests in the velodrome in Roubaix prior to the Dauphiné, and we believe that I have a fair chance," he explained. "I'm training very hard. I have the Tour de France as a base layer, and then I did some altitude racing in Utah and Colorado. My near-win in Colorado Springs, where I was caught with 700 meters, was a good reference. I was out there for one hour by myself. I had this attempt in mind that day."
Voigt's interest comes on the heels of a rule change that the UCI made in the late spring to the Hour Record, which binds attempts to current regulations on track bikes. Whereas previously the record was constrained to historic gear, now riders are permitted to use modern-day TT positioning and aerodynamic advances such as deep-section wheels and aero bars. The governing body made the changes in hopes of rekindling interest in the event.
"The Hour has lost some of its magic over the last years. Maybe my attempt could kick off a new round of hour-record attempts. I could establish a mark for everyone to give it a try. Make a bridge, you know," Voigt said. "I raced against Boardman, Indurain and Sosenka. [All of whom held the Hour Record at one point or another.] And I'm racing with Fabian and his generation. If I make it, it would be sandwiched between those names. I can pave the way for them. I have no illusion to keep the record once Fabian and other specialists start having a go. But I kind of like the idea of telling my grand children about it, when they sit on my lap when I'm 75."
UCI President Brian Cookson was thrilled at the news. "I'm delighted that one of the most popular riders of the modern era is going to make an attempt. It is exactly what we hoped would happen when we changed the rules," he said. "Jens has proven over a long career to be one of the very best riders at the long lone effort, and cycling fans around the world will be delighted with this news."
Meanwhile, Voigt was as gung-ho as ever. "Why I do this? Why not! I take the chances that life, or in this case the UCI, gives me. I'm the first one that's brave enough to do it."
Apparently, Voigt wasn't as ready for the heavy breakfasts and torpor of retirement as he let on.