To the other side

A polka dot jersey wearer at the Tour de France and seven Grand Tours in his pocket - Paul Voß did it all as a pro. Following his retirement, hear how the German is passing on his knowledge to the young riders of Team WIGGINS.

Now in its third year, Team WIGGINS has earned a reputation for both exciting racing and a commitment to unearthing talented young riders. It has also attracted the interest of other professionals within the sport who see what the team is doing and want to get involved.

After Paul Voß retired at the end of last season, he was asked by Team WIGGINS to step in and support at races under the stewardship of sports director Simon Cope. Already the committed owner of a junior development team back home in Germany, Paul was delighted to help.

“I will try to give the riders what I wanted when I was racing,” he says. “I want to be as close as possible to them: ask them how they are, what they need – ask them their opinions. It’d be easy for me to say ‘go to the front’ [but] I want to bring the riders into the tactical decisions.”

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This approach requires balance, giving riders the opportunity to think for themselves but guiding them where necessary. He knows the importance of results, but while these young riders are still developing, he is keen to stress that “it’s not always about results. Sometimes the strongest does not win, it’s more about how you race.”

At WIGGINS, what has struck him the most is the resilience and mental strength of his riders, something which belies their years. Ollie Wood for instance, “got dropped in a hard stage at the Coppi e Bartali race but he was fighting to the end, I like that, not giving up, there are a lot of guys with potential but they need time and guidance to get to the next level – it’s a steep learning curve.”

Paul is on his own learning curve, with the Coppi e Bartali his first taste of life on the other side back in March. His role was second DS, meaning he was responsible for riders who’d struggled in the hills and dropped towards the back of the pack.

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Concentration, periphery and anticipation are traits that bike riders possess naturally, but driving a car in the middle of a race is a whole other skill set to learn: “In a car everything feels so slow, but on the bike 5km/h is a massive difference. If you bring a guy back who’s had a puncture, [he’s] on the limit behind you, you’re doing 80km/h whilst talking to the other guy behind you, making sure he’s not crashing into the back of you and [that] you’re not crashing into the back of him!”

Next up for Paul will be the An Post Rás, an eight-day stage race around Ireland in late May. The Rás is a tough race, and sees strong domestic pros compete against under 23s and a few continentals. Paul hopes that the WIGGINS boys can aim for the podium, but he reiterates the importance of taking the opportunities when they present themselves, rather than any final result.

“I didn’t do it enough, I realised too late,” he admits. But it’s not too late to impart that wisdom onto his riders. “I want to tell the boys: switch off your power meters and just go for it. See where you end up. If you get knocked down, pick yourself up. You may get caught but next time you’ll go further.”

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Photo: Marshall Kappel