Q&A with Charly Wegelius

Born in Finland to an English mother and Finnish father, Wegelius grew up in York in the UK, and went on to race for some of the best teams in cycling including the Belgian Lotto team, Italian Team Liquigas and the world’s most successful ever team; Mapei.

During an impressive eleven-year career he became one of his generations most trusted and reliable riders, riding in a remarkable fourteen Grand Tours (including three Tours de France). During this time he was hand picked to ride in support of some of the sports greatest champions, such as 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, and Italian Danilo DiLuca, alongside whom Charly was part of the team that won the 2007 Giro d’Italia.

Charly’s esteemed reputation at the very top tier of European professional racing, at a time when few other British riders had managed to break through to that level, helped to lay the foundations for the current crop of successful British professional cyclists.

Charly Wegelius currently worksas a director sportive for the American Garmin-Sharp team.




As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?

I didn’t finish the race, but the 2007 Giro was my best achievement.  Being a part of a winning team over a 3 week race is unbeatable.

Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?

I haven’t ridden a bike really since I retired, but when I was racing the Sacro Monte in Varese was one of my favorites.  

The same question for roads anywhere in the world?

Many years ago I trained in the Napa Valley in Northern California. That was pretty special.

What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?

Seeing Eddy Merckx comments in the Gazetta Dello Sport the day after Franco Pellizotti won his Giro stage in 2006 * (see below)

Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?

It has ended it! I have not been able to swing a leg over a bike since I quit racing.  Pe rhaps it is still too closely associated with hard work and obligation to feel like a hobby. Maybe in time.

Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs’?

Many of masseurs in the past were totally convinced by this.  I wouldn’t say they weaken legs, but they could distract the mind, which has even worse effects on performance.  Often they can help to focus ones efforts though…..

We are in the midst of a well publicised boom in cycling in the UK at the moment. Has it affected you? Do you have any thoughts about why it has happened and whether it will continue? Do you see any negatives to the increase in popularity?

As I haven’t lived in the UK for many years, and am somewhat marginalized by the establishment, I have not seen much of this boom first hand.  I do however see many british faces at the races and that is great.  Only time will tell if this level of enthusiasm is sustainable, I certainly hope so.

All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?

Because its easier than starving yourself.

Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?

I used to clean my bike parts in Brasso and put them under the stairs wrapped in newspaper for the winter.  The spring after I quit I took my bike out, planning to ride it.  I never actually got round to riding it, and ended up going off to work a race.  When I got back weeds had grown up around the bike so I had to cut it free.  

Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?

I think the pro’s pro of the last years at least has to be Pablo Lastras.  A gentleman and one of the last real team riders.

What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?

The late eighties, just when I was discovering the sport, was unique for me.  Headbands, mullets, Fagor, white “ Time" shoes, Campag Delta brakes,  sunglasses with sweatbands, I loved it all!

Do you think Bradley Wiggins looks cool despite his long socks or because of them?

I wouldn’t say he looks particularly cool. But he goes fast.

Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?

The whole hog. Preferabbly with a fairly liquid bottle to make a mud flap.  Extra long, so the first kms grind it out to exactly road level.  Wet bottoms are no good.

Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?

I’m so old that I used to stop at a cafe in the “pre whacking fabric” days.  Starting out after an hour by the radiator with cold damp clothes on was never fun.  But now I reckon I would stop.

Assos, Rapha or neither?

Castelli.  The thinking man’s clothing choice.

Do you, or have you, got/had a favorite piece of cycling kit? 

I used to love my 28mm training tires, super for sand road excursions, but a bugger to get through tight frames and brakes.

Do you prefer to get your head down on the A6, keep a good tempo going on the B roads or get onto the back wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?

The A6 was grim in 1999, so I don’t think it would be much fun now.  But it has its merits, getting where you really want to be with minimum time wasted.  As far as dirt is concerned, I loved riding dirt roads, and it got me through a lot of training in my last years that I probably wouldn’t have managed otherwise.  Highly recommended.

What do you think about Strava?

We use Garmin Connect, which is a great way to collect your rides and share it with the whole community.  I can also check up on my riders, and see how long they have been stopped at the coffee shop. I

What do you think about Sportive rides?

They seem to be a great way for people new to the sport to challenge themselves over famous terrain and meet like minded people.  But I think they should be treated just how they were intended : as fun.

Do you have any cycling pet hates?

I used to hate having to put shoes on in the morning that were still wet from previous days stage.  The cycling equivalent of putting wet jeans on.

Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?

Traditional cycling clubs, even though they weren’t nessecarliy the hippest gangs, always made sure to teach everyone the basic etiquette of riding together. Pointing out potholes, saying hello to one another bla bla bla.  Who will teach that to people who come in to the sport but are never part of an old school cycling club? It would be a shame to loose that, its so nice when someone waves a polite hello.

Cotton cap or helmet?

Helmet.  The asphalt tends to be quite hard.

The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?

The advantage is spinning a smaller gear is that even you may be creeping, there is always a chance that you are going to look fast to the casual observer.  That possibility is not open to those who choose big gears. 

White, black or coloured socks?

I used black socks on rainy days for the first time in 2011. The year in which my career ended.  Maybe its a coincidence.

Frame pump or mini pump?

I often used a frame pump, but put it in the rear triangle, sticking the rear wheel squewer in one end for extra security. I thought it was a great, offbeat look, with an eye for tradition.  Pump was always full of rain water, and invariably rusty, mind you.

What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?

If you ride 35,000km per year you can usually cover most topics.

Maybe it's slightly taboo to talk about doping but, do you think Lance Armstrong has been unfairly treated?

Its doesn’t have to be a taboo to talk about doping.  I think it is good that Lance has finally admitted what he did, so that the years of constant speculation can end, and the sport can start to focus its energy on building a better future.  

Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?

I would ride stoker, with my Mrs. Perfect.

* Eddy Merckx said, if Axel (his son) had had a teammate like Charley then he would of won the stage. Axel was away on his own and Charley chased him down alone for the his team-leader, and eventual stage winner, Franco Pellizotti. A massive tip of the cotton cap from the big man himself! 

Comments on this post (1)

  • May 09, 2014

    Just finished the book. What a great read and my heart goes out to Charly. Thank him for his honesty and ability to share his life with others.

    — Peter Curtis

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