Eddy Merckx once said ‘the race is won by the rider who can suffer the most’ and when the greatest cyclist of all time speaks, you take note.
And nobody epitomised suffering on the bike as much as one man who literally took those words to heart and coined his own catchphrase to help him through the pain barrier – “Shut up legs!”
Jens Voigt’s penchant for a day-long breakaway or daring raid on the peloton characterised his lengthy career, a career that only ended last year as he was about to turn 43 years old.
And the German wasn’t done there either, smashing the UCI Hour Record as he put himself in the hurt locker one last time.
So when we wanted to find out the secret to being able to suffer like a pro, we figured there was no better person to ask. We headed along to the opening of the CycleFit’s new store in Manchester – where the Jensie was a VIP guest – to find out exactly that.
Get your head in the game
Not everybody can sprint like Mark Cavendish, time trial like Sir Bradley Wiggins or climb like Chris Froome – so if you want to tick off your goals in cycling, suffering is key.
For Voigt, it was his ability to suffer that earned him success. “I had to do something else if I wanted to win,” he explains. “I had to put everybody else through the meat grinder.”
So how exactly do you do that? A significant part of that is the mental challenge – and Voigt says he would get his Hulk on when out on the road.
“For me it always helped to make myself aggressive or angry,” he said. “I don’t know if it would work for everybody but for me it helped to create more energy.
“To make yourself angry, you have to get into the mindset of hating that person out in front of you or those people chasing, or the time limit you’re trying to beat.
“It’s about remembering the times when you got beat and being determined not let it happen again.”
And anger isn’t the only thing Voigt used to drive him on when on the attack – self-belief is key.
“In a race, for example, if you are at the front trying to give yourself positive feedback, then it’s about thinking ‘OK, we’re going to stay out here, I’m going to make it, I’m going to beat everybody’,” explains Voigt.
“If you are chasing somebody, then it’s a different game – you have to believe you will catch them.”