on 9 June 2013
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.
on 9 June 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.
on 22 July 2013
Life is cynical. In this ghosted memoir Charly Wegelius relates his story from darling of British Cycling to eventually making his name in the peloton with many setbacks in between.
He never won a race as a pro. The pressure of team leadership exposed his limitations whereas he felt comfortable as a support rider. The Grand Tours became his metier, particularly the Giro d'Italia, which he regarded as his own race. If the Vuelta taught him how to survive, the Tour emerges as big, brash and lacking glamour with no time to relax. Riders feel stressed, particularly in the first week, when there are frequent accidents.
For Wegelius, doping was a personal thing. This avoids the issue. However, it was routine and he explodes the myth of omerta. Unusually, but not uniquely, he had a naturally high haematocrit level which, although accepted by the UCI, left him feeling vulnerable, his career innocently threatened by nature.
Nadir came at the 2005 world road race championships in Madrid. Without any naïve patriotism, Wegelius was riding for a living and a future. Although raced in national teams, it was not unknown for a rider to help a commercial teammate, for money. Wegelius struck a deal with the Italians at their instigation. The fallout affected him and a teammate who had been complicit in the arrangement. Both were banned for life from the national team. Further afield, the GB team manager resigned.
With maturity, Wegelius became a sage within the peloton. However, the Tour of 2010 became one Tour too many. Mentally and physically exhausted, disillusioned by the fickleness of pro cycling, he needed change. Marriage brought him the support and consistency that he had not known for a long time.
on 9 July 2014
A good book for enlightening starry eyed amateurs about the shady world of pro cycling, spoilt by the constant inclusion of bad language. Why authors think a cart load of Anglo-Saxon expletives will increase sales I just don't know. This language is fine for the factory floor or the peloton, but has no place in a book. I almost gave up on it after two chapters. I'm pleased I didn't as Charly has a salutary tale to tell of an insecure world, and you do feel empathy for him. His version of the betrayal of the British team in the world championships (for 30 pieces of silver read 2,500 euros) does little for him other than highlight the murky scene he was part of. He's quite right that the expectation that riders work for free for another pro is wrong. However, betraying your country is not an action that finds favour with either fans or the public at large, and I'm sure his action closed more doors than it opened.
on 13 August 2013
Having previously read 'the secret race' by Tyler Hamilton I was hungry for more shenanigans from within the peleton so I quickly scooped up Charlie's book. However, although it is informative, insightful and witty in places, I couldn't help but yawn and skip pages due to similarly bleak anecdotes where nothing really exciting happens, there's a lack of truly interesting content. Middle of the road for this book I think.
on 14 September 2013
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. The best bit, as someone who waded through Pro Cycling and Cycle Sport month in, month out, throughout the 90's and noughties, are the bits of insider gossip - Friere, Rominger, most of Mapei all come out of it very well, Cipollini all the more so, Pantani the enigma, Ullrich the good egg. I know folks will read this and gnash their teeth that he doesn't spill the beans, but it's not his job to - there's plenty of books out there to name names - much more interesting to me is to actually know what a night out with Cipollini was actually like. Brilliant, by the sounds of things.
There are some gaps. He says little about Wiggins, odd seeing that they roomed together in the High Peak at the start of their careers and you feel he holds back regards British Cycling, but that's just niggles.
If you can get past the cack handed prose, it is perhaps one of the most honest and insightful books I've ever read about the British experience in professional cycling.
on 30 October 2013
As the book title suggests, this book really is about the good and bad parts of professional cycling through the eyes of someone who never won a race as a professional. As well as the obvious high points of professional cycling, all of the bad team managers, appalling hotels and dodgy team mates are included to give a real, gritty impression of pro peloton life.
It's also fascinating to find out how someone finds the motivation to work purely for someone else's success and harbour no ambitions of their own, apart from seeing the leader win, and how to build a career around this. A key part of the "story" is the infamous 2005 world championship farce and the fallout from it.
Overall a highly enjoyable read!
on 24 June 2013
I remember Charly's last Tour and his sudden disappearance from the sport soon after.
This book seemed to offer answers to why that happened and it provided some good broad brushstrokes across his history. It doesn't go deep enough into what actually happened. I am sure that Charly would say that this is due to the Lawyers valuable input but it left me feeling like I was reading a light summary of what actually happened.
It doesnt change my view of him. His career demands respect, but I get the feeling that an unauthorised biography rather than the autobiography may shed more light on the details behind the stories he tells.
on 20 August 2013
I wanted to read this book as it was about a side of pro cycling the average fan doesn't hear about. The role of the domestique is talked about a great deal but usually misunderstood. As the author says, anyone can fetch a bottle from the team car in the first hour when the peloton is cruising. A proper domestique earns his money on the final climb delivering his leader to victory before stepping into the shadows. Wegelius was that quality rider.
One refreshing aspect of the book is that it does not dwell on doping. Of course we all know what went on in those days and it doesn't need repeating. Wegelius' career perfectly parallels the EPO riddled races of the early 2000s through to the modern peloton with more ethical teams. If anything he suffered more from the hands of dopers than others due to his natural high hematrocrit but does not seem as bitter about this as say, Paul Kimmage does in his book. However, ultimately the book's mood is basically a steady downward spiral from around 2004 when he had a breakthrough season. Yes, it is negative but that is part of the book's attraction for me.
Also I enjoyed the author's insights into two leaders he worked for. Danilo di Luca is highly praised for his personal qualities and support for teammates. Cadel Evans is criticised for his poor team leadership and man management and negativity towards his employers at the time. But look at the reputation those two have in cycling in general now. This kind of view gives the book a unique perspective and for me, it was a good read and very different from most recent cycling books.
on 12 June 2013
A must read.
Amazon please remove the comment by irv - it is not about the book and as stated in the other review the guy is talking about something he has no real world understanding of.