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Publisher Description

**Winner - Sweetspot Cycling Book of the Year**

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 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…

Biographies & Memoirs
6 June
Ebury Publishing
The Random House Group Limited

Customer Reviews

jaybeenesq ,

Insider View

Charly Wegelius (assisted by Tom Southam) describes his 11 year career as a Pro Tour cyclist commencing with the difficulties he experienced as an English "outsider" trying to break into the world of European pro cycling in France and Italy as 17/18 year old through to his retirement as a somewhat disillusioned man who had a respectable career at the top of the sport without winning a professional race.
His perspective is the more interesting because he is not a superstar writing a memoir with view to maintaining/enhancing the "brand". The most interesting aspect for me is the way in which he draws out the differences between pursuing a sport as a pastime and doing it as a job. He acknowledges the issue of performance enhancing drugs in the sport but, apart from explaining how high natural haematocrit levels led to his being barred from a race, he does not focus on it as an issue in his career. The book does, however, describe a context in which the goal of being seen as a good professional might divert from an amateur code of conduct. Clearly the uncertainties of short term contracts, a limited professional life, an uneven division of the spoils between the winners and the also-rans and human frailty play their parts in determining behaviour.
There are some passing reflections on better known names like Di Luca (good natural leader) and Evans (difficult and demanding) but the book shows more about Wegelius himself and not always positively. He seems to have quickly assessed that he did not want the responsibility of leading and sought a sustainable career as a workhorse for those with higher ambitions. He paints a pretty sorry picture of his lot in the early days on French and Italian teams, bemoans the demands made on him to race when conditions or his condition did not suit and whinges about the quality of hotels on the Tour. He admits that the life of a professional sportsman is selfish and childish in some respects and wonders why the very flawed individuals who make up the bulk of the peloton are idolised by the public.

The writing tends to the journalistic and there is a degree of repetition. Nonetheless I found it a quick and interesting read which I would recommend to other "weekend warriors".

More Books by Charly Wegelius