Ned Boulting caught up with everybody's favourite cult cycling hero, Team RadioShack-Nissan's Jens Voigt, for a talk about how tough the Tour is, whether it's a clean race and how long he has left at the top.
Asked how he could ever forget how tough the Tour de France is, Voigt says: "I guess that's just a mechanism of pure self-protection.
"You just blend it out, you know erase and rewind. You lie to yourself and you say: 'Oh it wasn't so bad,' and then you get here and you remember it is so bad.
"You just try to forget it, to focus on the positive, on the nice things on the Tour, not so much on the pain, and you have to take it as it comes when the pain is there.
"[Yesterday] Every cell of my body was screaming at me: 'Stop, stop, I'm tired.' I could hear them all, millions of little cells yelling in agony: 'Jens, stop, I can’t do it anymore!'
"Tomorrow we have the rest day and then I should be good for the rest of the Tour."
Asked if he agrees with his team-mate Frank Schleck that this year's Tour has been relatively boring, Voigt added: "In the end of the day, it's the ASO designing the circuit, but it's us riders who make the race or don't make the race. If we decide we're going to attack for 100km and then we start chasing for another 100 it's an interesting race ...
"It's not always the layout that makes the race, it's the riders' attitude or how we decide we're going to race. If you have 220km people say 'Too long, too hard, I don't even bother to try' ... I think we should adapt a little bit."
As for Team Sky's dominance, Voigt said: "At the moment Sky are a superior looking team. Even despite the fact they lost [Kantstanin] Siutsou – they are controlling the race as far as I can see pretty easy ... so yeah they're looking pretty comfortable and confident – but then it's not their fault that they're in good shape – it's the other way round, it's the other team's fault that they're not good enough.
"It's a compliment for them but not exactly a compliment of the others"
"Team Sky have one goal – yellow, Bradley, Paris, that’s what we concentrate on and everyone understands that ... I would say they're doing a really good job."
Is this a clean Tour? "Definitely – there's no doubt for me it's a very, very clean Tour – I'm sure one of the reasons I'm still here, I can still ride tempo, I can still do my job, I can finish third on the podium of a stage, it's because it's clean, it's equal, it's a level playing field and I absolutely believe that," Voigt said.
"Bradley looks strong, his team look strong, but there's nothing I can not see explainable with hard work, dedication, sophisticated equipment, sophisticated training programmes, they're good, yes, but it's not that they’re having 10 minutes at once everywhere. They're good but they still have to suffer and to battle so I think they're just really focused on this goal. They announced their plan I don't know a year ago ... the diet, the clothes, they have special helmets, the TT bikes.
"That's the difference we see, that they're focusing on every little detail … they're willing to get people in to help them, and that just pays off."
"There’s nothing which cannot be explained with hard training, dedication, discipline, loyalty, team spirit ... they're a good team ... There's nothing else to add."
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