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"I just needed five years less of my life! If I would be 37 I would have won easy! But I am missing 3,4 or 5%…that is just the way nature goes. I gave it all and I don’t have any regrets.”

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22.08.2014 @ 13:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jens Voigt got agonizingly close to a fairytale end to his career when he was caught just 800m from the line in stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge. Having no regrets, the German claims that his age makes him miss those extra 5% that would have allowed him to take the win.

 

After two successive days in the mountains resulting in massive time gaps in the overall classification, stage four offered an opportunity for those not in the GC fight.

 

It was, in other words, a stage tailor-made for Jens Voigt.  When a 12-man break fled the peloton at kilometer zero, ‘Jensie’ was there. So was Laurent Didier. Trek Factory Racing was ready to play today. And play they did.

 

Stage four comprised of a short romp of 113-kilometers, including four times around a circuit with the sharp climbs of the stunning Garden of the Gods Park, before ending with a flat run-in to the finish in Colorado Springs. The 12 escapees quickly built a lead, but once it reached the four-minute mark, the warning sirens resonated behind. First Team Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies chased, then Team Garmin-Sharp lent their legs, and the gap began to melt.

 

Although the GC contenders welcomed a day “off” there were too many teams that craved a stage victory. On the penultimate lap Didier attacked up the sharp Garden of the Gods climb, and when he was chased back, Voigt countered just before the KOM line.  

 

He had a gap.

 

And that was all he needed. Voigt left his 11 breakaway compatriots behind and for the next 40 kilometers it was a spectacular high-speed chase: an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter to the final kilometer. 

 

“Laurent attacked at [kilometer] zero with five, six or seven guys," he said. "And I thought I could make it across [to the breakaway]. I knew the course from the years before and I was timing it so I was coming off the downhill into a little hill. BMC kept it fairly close until they knew who was in the break, and once they realized there was no danger to the classification, they let us go.

 

"There were a few good riders – some wanted to go for the sprint, some for the mountains jersey – but it unlucky there was no Optum and no Garmin, so they were chasing. When I saw the gap going down I talked to Laurent and told him we have to move something here, or we are not going to survive. Laurent did one attack, and they chased him down, and I went on top of it, and I was gone.”

 

At first the gap grew, and so did his optimism – when he still had a shade over 60 seconds with 10 kilometers to go it was touch and go; 35 seconds at five kilometers and there was hope. But a short, gradual uphill drag with less than two kilometers left spelled the end: under the one kilometer red flag the peloton was in spitting distance; 200 meters later it was over.

 

“I lost time up the climb because they were fresh in the peloton and they just punched up it," he said. " I had a minute on top and I thought maybe…it’s a 50-50 chance. I kept it at 50 seconds for a while, but when I saw it go down I wasn’t too optimistic going into the last three kilometers. But why should I give up, you know? Once you start out there you might as well go to the bitter end.

 

"The win would have been a fairy tale ending. I was really going for it. I was going all-in to get this one more win of my career. It was fairly close, and yes this is very much like my career where I give my all, no hesitation, and even if you see it’s not going to work, you just don’t give up. You just go. Once you start, you are out there and you just go all the way until you bury yourself.  You play the cards life is giving you, and for me it’s always been more about guts and heart. Today I tried to find one more ace up my sleeve.”

 

Over the line it was Elia Viviani (Cannondale) taking the bunch sprint while the overall classification remained unchanged. Jens Voigt's consolation prize was winning the most aggressive jersey for stage four, an easy choice after his gallant effort.

 

At the end the sprinters ruled, but the show today was all ‘Jensie’. With his fans lining the course, and ‘Jensie’ signs plastered up the Garden of the Gods climb, a solo win would have been magical - Hollywood could not have written it better - however, the ending was still beautiful. It was vintage Jens Voigt.

 

“I felt like it was my home crowd," he said. "On the climb there were so many people with ‘shut up legs’ and ‘farewell Jensie’ signs and shouting my name, it really sparked my desire to go out and give it my all and entertain the fans one more time.

 

"It ain’t over until the fat lady sings right? We still have three more stages to go….but I really wanted it today. Definitely. I made this clear in the team meeting to the boys. The race was made for me, it was a tough circuit but not killer climbs - just short and vicious. I just needed five years less of my life! If I would be 37 I would have won easy! But I am missing 3,4 or 5%…that is just the way nature goes. I gave it all and I don’t have any regrets.”

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