Domestique: The True Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Cyclist

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Ebury Press, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
2 Reviews

A remarkable true-life story from behind the scenes of professional cycling

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 realized 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 meters 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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This is a grim and humorless read. If the intent of the book is to provide the feeling of being a domestique -- endless days on the pedals with no glory as a reward -- the book accomplishes it. It's a slog, like a 150 km ride on the cobbles in the rain. One would hope for the occasional wry observation, humorous anecdote, or just some behind the scenes revelations, but all you'll get is Charly pedaling away and bemoaning his lot in life. Spoiler alert: It ends with Charly looking back on what he seems to regard as a wasted life, and you looking back on the hours wasted reading this book. If you have a friend or relative who thinks the cycling life might be their calling, you might want to give them this book as a means of dissuading them from that dream. Together with books like Tyler Livingston's doping confessional, it made me glad for the first time that I'd never pursued the sport more seriously than I did.  

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ProfH - LibraryThing

Interesting reading if you are a fan of pro-cycling. No major revelations, but plenty of anecdotes from the big races. Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Charly Wegelius was one of Britain's most distinguished and respected professional cyclists. He raced for some of cycling's best teams, including Mapei, the world's most successful team ever. In his 11-year career he competed in a remarkable 14 Grand Tours, including three Tours de France. Charly now works as a directear sportif for the Garmin-Sharp team. Tom Southam is a former professional racing cyclist who raced alongside Charly Wegelius for three years in the Italian professional peleton, and twice rode the professional Road Race Championships as a teamate of Wegelius. He contributes to major cycling publications in the UK and internationally.

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