Making fun of Bicycling Magazine is like making fun of mullets or Primal Wear jerseys; the target is just too easy to be fun. So I won't go on at length, but let's just say that Bicycling is to the cycling community what People magazine is to society at large - some pretty pictures and very little to harm you, but you are in trouble when you build a life around what it has to say.
To their credit, however, they did see the wisdom of snagging BikeSnobNYC to write a column for them. Sure, it probably took BSNYC's street cred down a notch and it doesn't fundamentally change the quality of the magazine as a whole, but credit where credit is due, right?
Well, to my surprise, I was recently notified that as a subscriber to VeloNews, I would be receiving some free issues of Bicycling magazine. Interesting tactic for unaffiliated companies selling the same product to the same market, but whatever, it landed a free bike mag in my mailbox. And to my utter astonishment and dismay, who was touted on the cover as their newest columnist? Yes, you clever Blog Title readers you, it was Jens Voigt. The Jens Voigt.
For Jen's first column, he wrote about his surprise and lack of understanding of why he is popular. He realistically considers the number and quality of his wins, he notes that his now famous phrase, "Shut up legs!" was just a one-off and he correctly notes that maybe it is because he just tries to do his job every time he gets on the bike.
So at least he has an inkling of why we love him so much, and yes, we do love him. In fact, as a cyclist, you either loves Jens as a rider, or you are a complete jackass. There are no two ways about it. I don't think there are any other riders that you can describe in this way. For every win of Cavendish, Pettachi or Cipollini, there are people who consider them too brash, cocky or over-styled. For every win of Armstrong, there are serious riders who question his panache or claims to be drug-free. For every win of Virenque, there are cyclists who throw up in their mouths a bit even as French housewives apparently swoon (in the interest of full disclosure, this is something I have only heard about, I have never actually experienced a French housewife swoon either Virenque or non-Virenque related). But with Jens, you have the embodiment of the soul of the everyman cyclist. He is dogged, he fights above his weight, he gives everything for his team and his leader, he does it all with a gangly pedaling action that looks like he is wrestling a live bike under him, and he does every bit of this in a way that he had a huge friendly smile on his face the moment before and after he gets on the bike. He is a fierce competitor, but obviously also a sportsman. He swings for the fence a lot more than he hits home runs, but he gets enough home runs to be respected by everyone else with a bat.
I know that most cyclists would like to dream about being Armstrong or Cavendish, but I'll take the Zabels, Zabriskies and Voigts any day. Guys who get the job done, are workmanlike and professional in their riding and who are doing it with a love for the sport.
Jens sums it up this way, "Maybe a plain-talking guy who is the same every race and tries hard every chance he gets, maybe that connects, I don't know."
Jens, I'm here to tell you, it connects and we love you for it. Jens finishes his first column with this, "Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry, and when I can't do it anymore, that's when I will know it's time for myself to shut up and leave."
Jens, you may be getting to the end of your career, but I hope that your legs shut up, and that you don't, for just a bit longer. It's one of the things we love about this sport.