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Domestique: The Real-life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro [Hardcover]

Charly Wegelius
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Jun 2013

For 11 years I was a professional cyclist, competing in the hardest and greatest races on Earth. I was in demand from the world's best teams, a well-paid elite athlete. But I never won a race. I was the hired help.

When my mum dropped me off in a small French town aged 17, I was full of determination to be a professional cyclist, but I was completely green. I went from mowing the team manager's lawn to winning every amateur race I entered. Then I turned pro and realised I hated the responsibility and pressure of chasing victory. And that's when I became a domestique.

I learned to take that hurt and give it everything I had to give, all for someone else's win. When the order came in to ride it was I pushed out with the hardest rhythm I could, dragging the group faster and faster, until my whole body screamed with pain. There were times I rode myself to a standstill, clutching the barrier metres from the line, as the lead group shot past. But that's what made me a so good at my job.

As my career took off, I started looking at the fans lining the route, cheering us like heroes. The passion for cycling oozed off them, but they couldn't know what it was really like. They didn't see the terrible hotels, the crazy egos or all the shit that goes with great expectations. Well, this is how it is.

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Domestique: The Real-life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro + Project Rainbow: How British Cycling Reached the Top of the World + Inside Team Sky: The Inside Story of Team Sky and Their Challenge for the 2013 Tour de France
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091950937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091950934
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"If justice is alive and well in the world, this will be the sports book of the year 2013... a book that is well nigh impossible to put back on the shelf at the end of each chapter." (The Washing Machine

"Interesting and revealing... the most accurate description of what being a highly-regarded domestique in the modern peloton is really like'" (Cycling Weekly)

"One of the hardest working domestiques in the sport" (Cycling Weekly)

"Couldn't put it down.the best insight into the peloton since Paul Kimmage's Rough Ride" (William Fotheringham)

"A must read. Absolutely outstanding" (Paul Kimmage)

Book Description

The compelling true-life story from behind the scenes of professional cycling

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Before the advent of team sky, Cav & Wiggo mania, cycling was a peculiar sport in Britain practised by few and understood by even less, most participants like myself had a Father or other introduction to the sport, very few kids in the late 70's and 80's grew up wanting a road bike, never mind a professional cycling career.

Robert Millar's tour exploits were 5 minutes on World of Sport on Saturday lunchtime, and you waited every week for your copy of 'Cycling' to find out what had happened in the tour, live coverage in English on tv? Forget it, when Channel 4 did 30 minutes of Tour de France every night I thought it would never get better than this, but it did, big time.

Against this backdrop, that a lad from York with no connection to the sport went abroad alone at 17, turned pro and remained employed for over a decade is nothing short of amazing.

To paraphrase Paul Sherwen on Charly's first Pro contract, 'many get a first pro deal, not many get a second', eleven year's worth is a tale in itself, with to the outside world no obvious wins to justify it; there's patently a great story to be told.

To have raced at the highest level with Evans, Basso, Cipo, Freire et al in the world's biggest races, adds to the spice but at the end of the day it's a tale of a true professional, and the realities of life once the scales have fallen from the eyes and a living has to be made.

It's a must read for anyone wanting to understand modern professional cycling, whether you're a 'mamil' inspired by Wiggo to buy a bike for the first time in 20 years or a 40 something life-long cyclist like me, who rode & raced with plenty of great cyclists who never made it - the story is even more remarkable.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and interesting. 9 Jun 2013
Wow. Irv, the previous reviewer, is pretty bitter. I suppose he hasn't actually read the book. But just saw the name and had to spew some venom and bile.

CW did what ten thousand other cyclists have done at the works championships. He put his trade team, the people who pay his wages 365 days a year, infront of his country, who expect his total loyalty one day of the year. CW lived in Italy, rode for an Italian team, and rode for his Italian team leader, and doubtless followed orders from those who paid his wages. So what ? Most of us would have done the same. Like it or not.

Until very recently, GB was an also ran in world cycling. We didn't have Cav to win sprints. Or Wiggins and Froome. For most of my time as a cyclist we were lucky to get a finisher. I remember when Robert Millar got a top ten finish. He did it with the massive help of an Australian, Alan Pieper. Alan wasn't a traitor to Australia. They both rode for Peugeot, and Alan knew it made more sense to ride for Robert, his team mate, team leader and friend. That's how cycling worked back then, and still does, in most cases.

So it might be useful, Irv, if you read the book and gave an honest review. Rather than spew hate about something that happened over a decade ago. I'm sure you're pure and honest, and have never done anything that was contradictory and based on expediency. But in the real world, people do what what they have to do. He might not have liked doing it. He might have hated it. But those who pay the wages and have control of next years contract, call the tune.

I've never met CW. But to call him a traitor and give him one star is pretty pathetic. You need to wake up and understand how cycling and the world really works. Grow up. Riding a few Sportifs and reading Cycling Weakly for a year isn't the same as being a domestique and riding Grand Tours in the hardest, most brutal sport in the world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wrong Ghost.... 14 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Say what you like about Lance Armstrong, since his bust, the shelves have been awash with English language memoirs of the mid 90's peoloton. Tending to fall into two camps; confessional (Tyler) and 'roll with it' (Yates), this is firmly in the latter camp. No drugs tales, no doping dilemmas just the grind of the job - fair play to Wegelius; he makes it clear he is no snitch and, judging by his salary for half his career, I am amazed he was able to pay for petrol much less EPO so I take it as it comes.
And it comes...patchily. Sad to say, this a fantastic story hampered by some shoddy ghost writing. Tyler Hamilton's book has been re-read three times. Why? Because, despite his use of an amanuensis, it's his voice that shines through. Likewise with Yate's biog. Here, the voice at times veers towards Alan Partridge ('I, quite literally, had the last laugh'. Maybe not, but you get the gist) or a foul mouthed 16 year old. I am not squeamish about bad language but there are some pages where you suspect that Charly's sole adjective begins with 'F'.
Criticism aside, it is well worth reading - 20 years ago, he would have been a legend, on a par with Sean Yates or Neil Stephens, the plucky super domestique sacrificing his career for the good of the team, grist to the mill of the British clubman. You only have to look at the cover photo to see just how much he has aged in his time on the bike, to see 'that hard work never hurt anyone' is utter rubbish - he buried himself day in, day out for very little in the way of recognition.
It's his memories of that time which make it worth getting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read. Perhaps from HIS point of view
Very good read. Perhaps from HIS point of view, but he comes clean with his involvement with the Italians during the world championships. Read more
Published 2 days ago by JFG
4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty reality of cycling
good read gives a great insight t to what is really y happen in g in the Pendleton the commeradery and the trials and tribulations of pro cycling. Read more
Published 5 days ago by AlanPeart
3.0 out of 5 stars I know its a hard life
He is a little self pittying. I know being a professional cyclist is tough but so is being a care worker on minimum wage with two kids and a mortgage. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Martin Kerry
5.0 out of 5 stars read this if you like watching the Tour de France
Very interesting details, a gruelling profession,read this if you like watching the Tour de France.
Published 19 days ago by enid
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book that takes you inside the peloton
Excellent book that takes you inside the peloton . Well written to let you understand how hard life as a domestique really is.
Enjoyable reading.
Published 20 days ago by The Piet
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting. The truth is stranger than the fiction.
Published 25 days ago by pablo
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into the sport. I hope my boys choose something other...
Very well written, detailed but unburdened by too many facts and dates. Really would have loved it for you to have come up trumps mate. Read more
Published 27 days ago by jason marino
5.0 out of 5 stars couldnt put it down
brilliant book. I read some reviews beforehand that winged about Charly not naming names as regarding doping, but there are enough books like that. Read more
Published 28 days ago by busy mum
5.0 out of 5 stars a real life story without the glamour
A true reflection of a true cycling professional - great book! Highly recommended as an inspiration to the hard work required as a professional cyclist.
Published 1 month ago by Jeff and Jasmine
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book from an underated rider.
Fantastic book about a relatively unknown rider, who it turns out is one of our best. From a professional team point of view Wegelius was valued by the knowledgeable european teams... Read more
Published 1 month ago by robert greensmith
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