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.