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An interview with Jens Voigt, March 28, 2009
Jens Voigt: "Not someone who chases records"
On the eve of the defence of his Critérium International title, German Jens Voigt talked to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake about how he's won the race four times and why he is not concerned with breaking records.
After a relatively quiet night at home with his wife and five children, Saxo Bank veteran Jens Voigt arrived in France on Friday to attempt a fifth career victory in the Critérium International, which begins Saturday in Monthois.
The race features a relatively flat and long stage on Saturday, the 190km trip to Charleville-Mézières, followed by a dual stage on Sunday. A "medium mountain" stage of 98.5km into the Ardennes followed by a 8.3km time trial on Sunday afternoon.
If he is successful in winning the race for a fifth time, Voigt will match the great Raymond Poulidor in his number of titles in the event. We caught up with the affable 37-year-old to find out what it is about the race which allowed him to win so many times.
Cyclingnews: We hear the weather isn't the best in France right now?
Then it cleared up and you could even see some blue skies, but then it started raining again. Tomorrow it is supposed to be iffy, too, but Sunday should be better.
CN: The bad weather is good news for you?
CN: What is it about the Critérium International that you like?
There is also the time switch [to Daylight Savings time -ed.]. I don't know if this is going to help me, but I am used to sleeping less with my five kids at home anyway – this race just really fits me. They always had the time change on the weekend of this race.
CN: You wear number one as defending champion, and will you be number one in the team as well?
Of course we have a good 'backup team', with the Schleck brothers [Fränk and Andy] and Gustav Larsson. He finished second last year, with a superb time trial on Sunday afternoon. So if my hand isn't successful there are other cards that we can play.
We also have a good sprinter with JJ Haedo for the stage tomorrow. If he can maybe win or get onto the podium we could get a good position for the team car in that short, stressful mountain stage.
And of course it is good for the morale of the team if you have a little bit of success in the beginning. I think our team is very well assembled on all positions and we tackle that whole thing very offensively and courageously.
CN: Having the team car up front is important, but what if the sprint doesn't work out?
CN: The team is also quite experienced.
CN: If you win you can equal your number of overall wins with Raymond Poulidor (five times)...
CN: Does the course vary a bit each year?
CN:Are there key sections where you know you have to be on the front?
Everybody got so nervous and jumped as well, so it went "bam" and all of a sudden there were five groups and not everybody was able to get back.
You always have to have an eye on the situation and of course you don't want to be the one left behind. You can't rely on the first day ending a bunch sprint, although it is often the case.
CN: Your first win in the Critérium International came in 1999.
The 1999 win was a nice one. We still had Chris Boardman on the [Crédit Agricole] team and he was the captain for that race. The race back then was in Avignon, but it was still the same, a flat Saturday stage, a hilly Sunday morning stage and a time trial. Boardman couldn't ride in the first group on Sunday morning. He ended up winning the time trial and I finished second, sealing my overall victory.
Among others I beat time trial world champion Abraham Olano; I was pretty proud with that victory.
CN:When you lead going into the final stage you leave the start house as the last person, is that a lot of pressure?
CN:Is that positive pressure or does it make you nervous?
We have pressure year-round anyway. You also try to get a contract for next year by performing well. Somebody who can't handle pressure won't be racing still at age 37.
Also see the preview for Criterium International.