Hardman. It's a title that conjures up images of some of the greats of cycling. Names like Kelly, DeVlaeminck, Thieunisse, Magni, Hinault, Tchmil, Duclos Lassale, of course Merckx and many others . They made their claims to fame taming the roads of the worlds greatest races. It wasn't just the fact that they won so many races, but rather how they won them. They raced with a ferocity and brutality that simply overwhelmed their opponents. They cared little about tactics and positioning and didn't ride wheels. They simply rode harder and longer than the rest of the peloton could. Their palmares are unmatched, their legends cemented in cycling lore, their names will never be forgotten.
In the next couple of years we'll most likely see the end to the career of a rider that will no doubt be included on the list of the greatest hardmen. His name is Jens Voigt (pronounced "Yêns Vōt"), and today, at the ripe old age of 41, he pulled off yet another amazing, attack filled victory in the Tour of California. It was vintage Jensy. Sprint up a slight incline with 5k to go and then head down and no looking back until you're within a few meters of the finish. Nothing fancy, just pure grit and determination with nothing left to give as you pass the line.
As I watched the live feed of him sitting on the ground trying to catch his breath, I waited for it. I knew it was coming. First a hand shake and hug from his soigner, the glasses come off, a little help with his helmet strap and then there it is... that big goofy smile that betrays the beast of a rider that lives inside his heart. He is the quintessential hardman of this era of cyclists, and his name is (in his words) mother ****ing Jens Voigt.