Jens Voigt is a man who knows about conquering pain in pursuit of perfection. So when Jens offers riding advice, it’s time to listen…

Forty-three-old Jens Voigt defied the clock by breaking the world one hour record. The man famous for his pain-defying catchphrase ‘Shut Up Legs’ registered 51.115km in 60 minutes en route to the record books and retirement. Here, Germany’s finest reveals 10 ways to train better and face faster…

Jens Voigt1. ‘AIM TO NEGATIVE SPLIT’

“When I broke the hour record, we followed a plan – which was needed as I race a lot on guts. I wanted to get ahead of the target but not foolishly so. The first 20mins I gained one lap on the timetable, cruised the next 20mins and gave it everything in the last 20mins. It was akin to a negative split and worked.”

2. ‘KEEP GOING TO THE END’

“Aim for a point past the finish line and keep going. That’s what I did in the Velodrome Suisse. Imagine how stupid I’d have looked if I’d celebrated too soon. That’s what happened to Erik Zabel at Milan-San Remo [2004]. He raised his arms in celebration, only for Oscar Freire to pip him at the line.”

3. ‘LET OFF STEAM’

“After a long, hard season it’s good to unwind, albeit momentarily. I remember once we had this wild party after the world championships, which finished around 7am. I went straight to the airport to meet the guys [teammates] and said I vaguely remembered smoking a cigarette. They responded, ‘Are you joking? You smoked two boxes!’ After training hard, letting off steam restores motivation for the next season’s training.”

4. ‘REFINING TECHNIQUE IS FREE TIME’

“Working on bike position and pedal stroke will save you time without expending more energy. Look at David Millar. He’s beautiful on the bike. Normally my bike and body move all over the place but Dave, well, whether he’s riding at 10mph or 30mph, he doesn’t move an ear. It’s poetic and doesn’t waste energy.”

5. ‘AGE IS NO BARRIER’

“I tweeted that 2013 but would be my last Tour… but, quite frankly, the younger riders were a little more shit than me. The Trek selectors knew I was in solid shape, wouldn’t break down and would diligently ride for someone else. It shows that consistent training strengthens your body no matter how old you are.”

6. ‘CHALLENGES = MOTIVATION’

“I’m contracted to Trek next year as support staff but I’ve been looking at further challenges to motivate me to detrain [Jens is so fit he needs to train for a year at around 65% volume of 2014’s total or risk heart problems]. I’ve been looking at a new mountain bike race in Alaska, which usually requires dog sleds. It’d be around -40°C and that’d be a great challenge. But it’s to be confirmed!”

7. ‘RACE BY FEEL’

“I’m one of the last who raced on feel; who says the sun is shining, I’m going to attack now. Others are going, “I’m pushing 375 watts. If I go to 425 watts now, my heart rate will be this. That’ll create too lactic acid and I’ll be dropped.” And by the time they’ve thought that, they have been dropped! Don’t be paralysed by training tools. They have a role to play but don’t forget to train and race on how you feel.”

8. HANDLING PRESSURE

“Whatever level you race at, you must be able to handle pressure. Listening to music or realising it’s not life or death helps. Mind you, with 18 teams in the WorldTour, there are only just over 500 spots available. There are nearly 1,500 registered professionals so the pressure on riders is huge to perform.”

9. ‘PUT IN THE MILES’

“Putting in the hard miles raises your tolerance to pain and prepares you to peak, and that’s important at all levels as we’re fitter and stronger than before. I remember Steve Bauer winning a stage of Paris-Nice with only 1,000km in his legs. That’s about one week’s training. Nowadays he wouldn’t make a prologue’s time limit with so few miles in his legs.”

10. ‘FUELLED BY THE CROWDS’

“Choosing a race that historically draws the crowds is a good idea. Whatever level of athlete you are, you can’t but fail to draw off the energy of spectators. It’s an emotional thing but it really helps you to dig deeper. And racing on emotion is a good thing. I mean, how dull would the Champions League Final be in an empty stadium?”

Words: James Witts