Janitors And Guys Who Say, “Shut Up Legs”: My Unlikely Heroes.

When it comes to heroes, bicycle racer and trainer Roger Rilling is an underdog kind of guy. What about you?

What does it take to be a hero? To me, it is the power to inspire others to be better. I’ve had my fair share of heroes over the years and every time I see them do their thing I am reminded of how far I have to go to become the man I want to be.

Perhaps I was a strange young boy since my heroes were friends, athletes and my elementary school janitor, instead of superheroes. I was always inspired more by reality than fantasy; the quest to be an athlete seemed much more obtainable than shooting webs out of my hands and fighting crime. As for listing my school janitor, a not very likely hero, let me explain. My grandfather spent part of his working life as a janitor. He spoke of it with great pride. As a boy on a quest to relate more to my grandfather, I started speaking to my school janitor. Although I quickly decided being a janitor was not for me, though continued conversations I did decide I wanted to be like him since he seemed happy. I did not understand until I was older just how much of an example my school janitor was setting for me; that it really did not matter what you did as long as you were happy with the life you lived.

As I grew older my heroes continued to be the underdogs — they simply inspired me more! Watching the 10th stage of the Tour reminded me of my heroes since two of  my most recent heroes were fighting it out in the closing kilometers of the stage. If you have not watched the stage, STOP READING NOW!

For those of you still reading you probably know I am speaking of Thomas Voeckler and the charismatic, Jens Voight. Voeckler over the years has become the little French man that could, countlessly doing more than anyone could imagine. If you are not a fan of Voeckler, go back and watch the 2004 Tour were he fought off the race favorites as he held onto the yellow jersey for an amazing 10 days! Jens is another real man! Known as much for his clever quotes,”Shut up Legs”, as his constant attacks and amazing willingness to turn his body inside out with pain to help his team. Jens has been a huge inspiration to a lot of riders and at almost 41, he continues to show it is more about attitude than anything else.

The conclusion of the stage yesterday was kind of hard for me to watch. I simply did not know if I should cheer for Voeckler or Voight! In the end, the results did not matter as much as the inspiration that was created by two great heroes. Hopefully you got as much of a buzz off yesterday’s stage as I did.

Tell us what you think makes a hero.


About Roger Rilling

Roger Rilling is a former professional road and track cyclist with over 10 years of coaching experience. Stoller, founded by Roger in 2004, is a coaching and training club that focuses on giving athletes of all abilities the experience of being a pro. Training at Stoller is based off of personalized training plans, partnered with supported group training events. To find out more about Stoller, please visit www.mystoller.com or call call 888.407.0754.


  1. Geoff Mohan says:

    Jens knows there is dignity in struggle. That’s heroism. Doesn’t matter the sport, the occupation. Dignity in struggle.

  2. Tom Matlack says:

    Brian I love when you talk dirty like that…

  3. Stage 10 was exceptional — incredible grit. Just watching those guys struggle to the line after having laid it all out there left me out of breath.

  4. thomas matlack says:

    Been reading the book “Tomorrow We Ride” about the Bobet brothers in the 1950’s France. Should be on the list…perhaps worth a read/review Roger.


  5. Really good article, Roger. I was in the same boat yesterday watching little Tommy and big Jens duke it out in the closing miles of that stage. A great piece of theatre for those of us who love cycling; watching the elders slug it out and showing the younger one’s they’ve still got it. For me the Tour isn’t always about who wears the Yellow at any given time – it’s about the stage victories. And the more panache and guts laid out on the road, the more I stand in . Voeckler’s teammate, Rolland, today showed the same grit and it paid off. I hope I didn’t spoil the result for you there.

    I won’t ever be a professional cyclist on their level, however their abilities (and the accessibility) in the sport continues to make me want to push myself harder and be a better man through it.

    • Jonathan,

      You share the same feelings on the Tour as I do. I actually think the quest for the Yellow jersey has been a little boring since the onset of the highly formalized approach that came about in the Armstrong era. I still think there are some great battles for Yellow but nothing like the older Tours. For the real excitement we have to look at people like Jens, guys that will do things like chase down 4 break aways, pace their team leader up the final climb and then fight it out the next day for a stage.

      Glad you liked the post…I am off to watch today’s stage, don’t worry I already knew the winner!

  6. David Byron says:

    I don’t do any cycling but running a very little. Legs do tend to complain a lot about nothing but if your feet start to say something then you better listen.

    Well this is a bit funny. I was thinking the woman’s shirt in the photo looked photoshopped because the wording doesn’t look bent enough out of shape for the rather curvy figure. So it looks like maybe it is:


    compare with:


    • Thanks for the comment David. My friend and bike fit guru would love your comment, he is all about feet and from what I gather was a pretty serious runner a while back. I can say from experience, the whole body needs to shut at times when you are going hard in any sport!

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