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When a Child Saved the Day for Jens Voigt at the Tour

By Martin Atanasov

The Tour de France is, without a doubt, the most thrilling sports event in the world. No other race has so much drama, so many adrenaline-pumping moments as this race does. Tears of joy, heartaches, celebrations, and drama always come hand in hand when hundreds of cyclists roam the streets of France at the start of summer. Yet, amidst all that tension, every once in a while, there is one truly wholesome moment that warms our hearts and reminds us why we watch every second of every stage of the greatest cycling race in the world with interest.

Jens Voigt, one of the biggest names that ever rode the Tour de France, was in the centre of one such event way back in 2010. But before we get to that magical moment, let’s brush up a bit on the history.

Jens Voigt

If you are getting into the cycling world just now, I can understand why Jens Voigt might be unfamiliar to you. For the rest, I’m sure you already know him quite well. He remains one of the greatest riders of all time albeit no longer active. The German has had one of the longest careers, spreading over two decades. Furthermore, Voigt participated in 17 Tour de France races and finished 14 of them, making him the third rider with the most appearances on this forum. Being a powerful domestique, Jens rarely won any races on grand tours. However, he did win two individual stages of the Tour de France (2001 and 2006) and one of the Giro d’Italia (2008). Outside of those races, though, he accumulated a massive winning streak with over 15 wins in one-day and stage races.

Jens will forever remain in cycling history, though, with his Hour Record. On 18th  September 2014 at age 43, after a total of more than 850,000 kilometres on the bike, Voigt decided to put an end to his career in a spectacular manner. He took on the Hour Challenge and finished it with a record distance of 51.110 km. The record would remain short-lived, though, but the achievement would live forever.

2010 Tour de France
Jens will forever remain in cycling history. © Profimedia

Tour de France 2010

With such an illustrious career, Jens has had some astonishing moments on two wheels. But none so crazy as what happened to him on the Tour de France in 2010. Voigt entered the competition as a domestique to help Andy Schleck go for the general classification win. The Tour began chaotically with Cancellara and Chavanel squabbling for the yellow jersey. By stage 9, Jens had managed to drag Schleck to the yellow jersey and continued to give him massive support. At stage 15, Andy was leading confidently and pressing the pace at the Port de Bales climb when his chain came off. Contador and Menchov took advantage and Contador took the lead.

Stage 16

The Tour de France is a mix of great scares and wholesome moments, and stage 16 of the 2010 Tour was no exception. During the descent down the Col de Peyresourde, Voigt crashed heavily, and his bike was completely destroyed in the process. Just a year earlier, he did a similar stunt, taking him out of the race. Luckily, this time, he escaped relatively unharmed. However, all his team cars and the neutral car were already in front of him, so no bike was coming.

Once again, fate was gracious to the German rider as the kid group’s car, following the race, stopped to check if the cyclist was alright. Jens took one of the children’s bikes, which was way too small for him and continued the descent. Although looking like a clown on a mini bike, Jens rode 15 kilometres on it to reach a police officer who was guarding a bike, left for him by the team car.

“We only had three days to go until we reached Paris, and I wasn’t about to quit, so I headed out on the little bike,” said Voigt later.

How Mark Cavendish saved the day

While riding the tiny bike, Jens caught up with Mark Cavendish and some other T-Mobile riders who were getting to the finish 15 km away without putting in too much effort. They let him ride in front on the little bike on the climbs, and when they started passing him on the descent, they sat up, so they could pull Voigt along with them.

“What Mark did for me was a great display of sportsmanship. He was my hero that day,” Voigt confessed after the race.

A Tour to remember

Although Jens finished 126th in the general classification, his leader Andy Schleck managed to grab the title. A well-deserved victory after the spectacular stage 17 where he gave his heart and soul to one of the most challenging climbs in race cycling -– Col du Tourmalet.

I’d like to remember the 97th edition of the greatest cycling event in the world with Jens Voigt’s wholesome story and Mark Cavendish’s outstanding sportsmanship. It’s always great to find the best in people, whether it comes down to cycling or anything but.