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The year according to Jens

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Photographs: Offside-LeEquipe, Simon Wilkinson

Jens Voigt has just realised that retirement from professional cycling isn’t all fishing and beer.
“We have six kids, the youngest one is three and a half,” he says. “So by the time she leaves the house, which is very likely fifteen years from now, we will be the ones being taken care of. I will probably never leave this diaper-changing business,” he jokes.
However, that gives him plenty of time to watch, and ruminate on, professional cycling. I snatched some time before the afternoon school run to chew over the 2014 season with Voigt, hearing his thoughts on the brightest performances of the year for the 1 Awards. 
One Day Race of the Year
“It has to be Paris-Roubaix. Maybe it’s unfair to the other Classics, all great races. But Roubaix is the race where even I do my training in the morning then send the kids away.
“Or I tell them ‘daddy is going to watch this race. I’m not watching any kid’s TV. This is the day of the year where daddy occupies the living room.’ It’s such a spectacle. And there’s no lucky winners there, you cannot sneak away. You cannot fake it, you’ve gotta be as strong as a horse and having the best day of your life in order to win it.
“It fell apart early, that’s just the way it was this year. The last 10 years have been dry at Roubaix. There’s got to be one year where it happens in the rain and that changes everything again.”
Paris-Roubaix has long held a fascination for Jens Voigt. pic: Offside/L’Equipe
Best Young Rider (Under 25)
“Nairo Quintana because he shows promising talent and I can see a potential future Tour de France winner in him. I haven’t talked to him much though: he mainly speaks Spanish. Plus when he starts to get down to business, I’m more or less already dropped, so we never really got much time together.
“Michal Kwiatkowski is my second place, being world champion. I’ll put [Trek Factory Racing team-mate] Julian Arredondo there in third. He only did his first really big year in Europe and already won a stage at the Giro and took the Mountains jersey. I think there’s a lot of potential in him, and there’ll be a lot more he will show off.
“Even at training camp, climbing seemed to come so easy to him – and he’s so motivated to perform at every single race, full gas. He just wants to attack at the start. We always had to go ‘Julian, easy, easy, you’re good enough to go at the end with the big guys, you don’t have to break away at the start or middle of the race’. Plus he’s a cool cat, a cool character, as well.
“Two years from now, he might have a go at top ten or five in a Grand Tours. He just needs to have a bit more maturity. The talent is there, we just need to teach him a little bit of training and tactics, sparing energy until it’s right and has to be spent.”
Team of the Year
“Omega Pharma-Quick Step – they had the most wins. Is it a case of quality over quantity? No, a win is a win. Even a bike race around the church in Deinze in Belgium or going round the abbey in Glastonbury: there’s no such thing as easy races anymore, my friend. It’s dead hard and serious. If you have the most wins, you’re a pretty good team.
“Second place, I would go for Giant-Shimano. Because they often often take charge in races and show some confidence in themselves, in their sprinters or leaders. It’s a good quality in teams to say ‘hey, I don’t care what you guys say, if you’re big, small, WorldTour or not, we take responsibility because we believe we can win this race’. If any other teams wants to join us, you’re welcome, but we start riding now.
Giant-Shimano: taking races by the scruff of the neck. photo: Offside/L’Equipe
“I would put our team [Trek Factory Racing] in third. Because we’re a brand new team and we did a very good first year. Maybe we didn’t have the most number of wins, but we had some very good ones with Fabian [Cancellara] and demonstrating team spirit, the value of how teams should be. It’s not just working together as professional athletes, we’re a band of brothers. I really like that.”
Directeur Sportif of the Year
“Torsten Schmidt from Katusha. Because he won two Tour stages and Milan-Sanremo with Alexander Kristoff and I believe he had a good part [to play] in that.
“He is willing to motivate riders but if shit happens, he also understands that’s how it is: you cannot yell at everybody because sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just somebody else was stronger or luckier or better at that point.
“He was a domestique as a rider. To be a good directeur sportif, if you were a superstar, life has been too easy to you. Super-strong riders probably make for very bad coaches or directors. They go ‘your legs are hurting? What the fuck, my legs never hurt for 20 years, so what are you talking about?’
“Lieutenants and people leading out their captains make the best directeur sportifs. Because they have been with him until the very last moments, into the sprint or last climb, so they’ve seen the whole development of the race, they see how the captain performs and how he is with the stress. 
Katusha star Alexander Kristoff: helped to the finest season of his career by DS Torsten Schmidt photo: Offside/L’Equipe
“There is a whole change of generation [in the team cars]. A lot of younger riders are doing it: 116 and Robbie Hunter with Garmin, there are some young kids with Sky and Tinkoff. Sometimes when I come back for bottles, passing all the directors cars on the way back, half of the guys in there were younger than me, or I raced with them.
“Oh, and I have an idea for a new category for you. Like John Wayne, for example: he also got an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. So maybe you can put me in a special category: Lifetime Achievement and Breakaways.”
Jens Voigt, a judge in the 1 Awards, was talking to 6. 
About the 1 Awards
The 1 Awards recognise the best riders and performances from the 2014 professional road racing season – with a twist.
The winners will be chosen by a panel of experienced judges, comprising some of the most experienced minds in cycling, including Jens Voigt, Sean Kelly and Jonathan Vaughters.
Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing a selection of each judge’s choices, alongside their reasoning, on 1.cc before revealing the winners for each category on December 19.

The Categories
Rider of the Year
Stage Race of the Year
One-Day Race of the Year
Team of the Year
Best Young Rider (Under 25)
Domestique of the Year
Most Attacking Rider
Directeur Sportif of the Year

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