Most folks assume that, given the chance to go for a ride with any professional cyclist, I would automatically choose Lance Armstrong. Despite his incredible carreer and worldwide celeb status, I would in fact probably call it a tie between Jens Voigt and Philippe Gilbert. Sorry Lance. I'm pretty sure this revelation won't have too many repercussions, since the chances of Lance frequenting my blog seem pretty low.
Heading out into a downpour for a five hour ride, I need only think of these old school cycling hard men to quickly shed any feelings of self pity I might have. Jens, giving it absolutely 100% every day, hammering in the break or on the front for his team, and attacking long after most other riders have decided to call it a day, is what I try my best to replicate everytime I toe the start line.
Shreding a peleton in the pouring rain on the last climb of a belgian classic like Gilbert is something I imagine myself doing just about everytime I'm slowly grinding up some hill in my smallest gear. Gilbert, the classic Belgian tough guy who only needs hard races and leg splitting attacks, not race radios and calculated conservative strategy, to win races, is my second hero of modern bike racing. And a good dose of the Jens classic: "Shut up legs!" is just what's needed when facing a into a howling head wind.
I would love to get to race with these guys some day. Jens' advanced years might make that a bit unlikely, but on the other hand I could easily picture him pounding the peleton into pieces, AARP card in his jersey pocket