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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,341 ratings  ·  85 reviews
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 mowi
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Ebury Press (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  1,341 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Wegelius is whiny and mundane. Plus he doesn't like Cadel Evans. That's a non starter with me.

3.5 Stars

Edited to Add: Read the kindle edition.
Toby McMillen
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read; as a cycling fan who watches European races whenever possible (due to limited US tv coverage), I was very familiar with Charly Wegelius, and had a great deal of respect for his domestique prowess. I well remember watching him turn himself inside out at the front of the bunch on the steep climbs of the Giro.
His professional role was, as he says in the book, largely unknowable to anyone who hasn't done it. It is perhaps like the American professional basketball player
Really interesting look at behind the scenes in Grand Tour cycling. While this isn't a big American sport, cycling is huge worldwide and a billion people watch the Tour de France.

CW shows what it takes to be in that kind of endurance trial and all I can say is, I can't believe anybody would put themselves through that. Yet people do and I admire the fortitude.
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After listening to Charly Wegelius on Mike Creed’s podcast I decided to pick up Charly’s book, Domestique. I admit I was not familiar with Charly or his cycling career but quickly found myself engrossed in this story about the life of a domestique in the European peloton. Both Chapter 5 and 6 are particularly interesting because Charly reveals why he embraced the role of a domestique (rather than a cycling star) and explains Italian cycling culture through his experiences on the De Nardi team. I ...more
Laura Walin
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, biographies
A well written sports book is a joy. It manages to to capture the intensity of a professional athlete into words and the reader notices that she is holding her breath while reading, in the same way as she would be as a spectator. The biography - or rather a memoir - of the profeccional cyclist Charly Wegelius was such a book.

I was not familiar with the world of cycling apart from a few flash images from TV on Tour de France. Cycling is not a big sport in Finland for obvious reasons (flat country
Gumble's Yard
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Well written and distinctive book – key themes include: Wegelius’s embrace of Italian racing (and his view that this led to him being unappreciated by English speaking fans and media): his naturally high haematocrit which with the 50% rule put him at a huge disadvantage as he could not benefit from training whereas riders without his natural advantage could benefit from large amounts of EPO; the controversy over his riding for the Italian team (interestingly with his co-author Tom Southam) at th ...more
Simba Sagwete
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book that takes the sheen of the world of professional cycling. A classic illustration of "be careful what you wish for". Most books about cycling focus on what's so great about it but this was a dissenting voice. Charley Wegelius focuses on the less glamorous parts of being a professional cyclist which is more true-to-life in my eyes. Everyone watches the Tour de France, but apart from the die-hard fans, who watches the Roma Maxima? And What does it feel like to do a 100km turn at th ...more
James Walsh
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting insight into what it means to be a Domestique- not about the winning but what cycling demands of you and the lack of glamour contained within. Sometimes disjointed but overall an excellent read.
Ron S
The best look at life in the peloton since Paul Kimmage's Rough Ride (1990). Wegelius began his career riding for Vendee U in 1996, and his career included stints with the Linda McCartney Racing team, Liquigas, Silence-Lotto and most notably, Mapei during their heyday. Highlights included supporting Danilo Di Luca to Giro victory, a Grand Tour he rode from 2003 to 2010. A great read for any cyclist with a remote interest in racing, or those that enjoy sport biographies in general.
Gregg Kellogg
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
An exciting account of the life of a yeoman professional cyclist. The inside into the world of professional cycling and the inside scoop on the workings of road races is illuminating. Charley makes you feel the pain, both physical and emotional, of what it takes to compete. I also sympathies with the experience of living in another land; enjoying it, but never quite belonging,
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Domestiques are the cyclists who do the donkey work for the stars. Froome and Thomas can't win without the likes of Kwiatkowski and Stannard. The former get the glory - and the book deals - but this book covers what life is like for the latter.

Before the rise of Team Sky only a handful of British riders had made it to the professional peloton and with British Cycling focussed on track glory, there was no obvious route into it for the ambitious. Wegelius started at the bottom and worked incredibl
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, cycling
I have very fond memories of Charly Wegelius from his time in the peloton, always seemed like a stand up guy, and I had great hopes for this book... and it kind of made me dislike Charly. The start was great, good take on his early years and early career and then it all went to shit when he started talking about the last 5-6 years of his career (so basically the latter half of it) and everything became someone else's fault and he tried to justify all his choices and why he wasn't wrong. Maybe it ...more
Thomas Brown
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wegelius gives a very honest and revealing account of what it's like to be a supporting rider in a professional cycling team.

He doesn't try to make the reader like him, and confronts and lays out his mentality and behaviour over the years- some of it doesn't endear him, other bits you respect him a lot for- but the context means you can sympathise with him throughout.

I would have liked a few more anecdotes of the oddities of the tours, I'm sure he must have loads of little stories- but I can und
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, sports
Charly Wegelius' no doubt ghostwritten memoir isn't great literature, but it's worth reading nonetheless. It's a window into the life of a pro cyclist, and a sort of pro that we don't often hear much about. The domestique is a key part of the success of a cycling team and its star(s): he sets the pace of the peloton, leads or pulls back breakaways, leads out sprinters, and saves his teammates' energy for the big finish. Wegelius lets us see this kind of career realistically, with all its pain, l ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a cycling fan and one who reads many books on the subject, but doesn't partake in the actual activity it was so nice to read a book which actually seemed real - not a winner who tells you how hard they worked or how much it was all down to them, but one of the heart and soul riders who make those winners but rarely get the glory. I found it to be well written and genuine, and reading this during the actual Tour de France makes me look at those athletes and make me very glad that my chosen car ...more
David Wilusz
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A harsh and unglamorous look at the truths behind pro cycling from a rider who is tough, melancholic, and whose personality is slightly dark. Engaging and well-written. Recommended for anyone interested in a look "behind the curtains" of the glitz and glamor of riding Grand Tours. Contains some deeper life lessons as well, as the author is forced to do some serious soul-searching as his career advances.
Colin Mitchell
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Born in Finland Charly was brought up in England and represented British Cycling. This is the story of his fight to become a professional cyclist and the tribulations of his life for 10 years in the peleton. Crisis over contracts and his involvement in the scandal surrounding not working to team orders in the World Championships.

Unfortunately the story is littered with profanities that detract rather than enhance the book. Recommended for die-hard enthusiasts only.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
"I knew the truth about professional cycling: it's no fucking fairytale"
the untold story about the many times overlooked and overshadowed people of cycling: the domestiques.
A very entertaining book with a lot of insights on the sports , even though some events happened almost 30 years ago. Some of it may still be true.
Thanks for the lines Charly. And thanks for the shows you've put on back in those days.
David C Ward
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘An amateur does what he wants to do; a professional does what he has to do.” I’m interested in sports and have played a lot of them (badly) but seldom read sports books because they’re usually just part of the PR, mythmaking machine that glosses over what doing sports is really like. This is a very good, unsparing look at what it takes to become a respected pro cyclist but also the costs involved. You love it until you hate it. It’s the world until it’s not.
Steve Chilton
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Picked up randomly in a charity shop and turned out to be good buy. Really good insight into what the professional cycling life must be like. A very single minded individual, whom I still warmed too, except when over-using the F word. Part of a increasing large and fruitful writing genre (on cycling).
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great cycling tour

Charly Wegelius describes the world of professional cycling in an accurate and interesting way. His experience comes through the pages well, and this book is a page turner. Cyclists will appreciate the account especially.

I have raced myself, and the descriptions are incredibly accurate. Cycling is hard. And heartbreaking. And rewarding.

A 'must read' if you like your competitive cycling

A well written and insightful book. A book that does exactly what it says on the tin with a genuine perspective on the world of riding a bike for a living. No politics, no new take on doping, just a lot of suffering
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport
Not the usual sports book, quite a raw look at pro cycling. Got someone who loves the sport seeing this side of the peloton is quite a shock. A good book, but don’t expect a cheery uplifting sports book.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Certainly takes the gloss of professional bike racing as a career choice.
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Part very interesting look under the covers of racing. But too much apology and whining to be top rated.
Tony Gjessing
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
True to life

A real eye opener into the true life of a cycling professional and domestique. It paints a picture of a very hard life.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting, entertaining read. A glimpse into professional cycling. Fun to end on last day of the Tour!
Joao Pombinho
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Insightful account of pro racing backstage. The scarcity of this kind of writing from pro cyclists warrants the 4 stars in my view.
Keane Ingram
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
It was very interesting to read from a domestique's viewpoint rather than a team leader for once. I'd definitely recommend this to any fan of professional road cycling.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, cycling
A riveting and deeply personal account of life as a professional cyclist. Engrossing, with no happy ending!
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“cycling, and from my first days living in Italy I couldn’t help but feel its influence and importance. It played a pivotal part in where I was, what I was doing and who I was trying to become. Once I was in Italy the Giro was forever on my mind. The thing about Italians is they love to talk. They love to talk about anything, but much in line with their Mediterranean cousins in Greece and Spain they love to debate. In Italian the word is polemica – it is what keeps bars in business, cafés bustling, and it is what makes cycling, along with football and politics, so important. The drama and aesthetic beauty set against the titanic physical struggle of cycling make it the perfect subject matter for this kind of debate. In Italy, while one-day races might provide reasons for a good debate for a day or two at best, the real winner is the Giro. It provides one whole month of conversation and argument, and the newspapers and television stations delight in fuelling the conversation – they exist purely to stoke the fire of debate.” 0 likes
“In a very simple way the amount of pain that a professional cyclist goes through, even on a normal day, far exceeds what most people would experience in their entire lives.” 0 likes
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