The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro
by Charly Wegelius
Reviewed by Lawrence Bywater
Pro road cycling is feted for its heroes, its superhuman efforts, its panache filled endeavours and mainly its winners. Yet perhaps what is most captivating about this sport in terms of its individual personalities are the efforts of a band of self-sacrificing, selfless riders who perform the tasks unseen by the uneducated cycling fan. Domestiques. They serve their glorified leaders day in day out; they perform the often thankless tasks of sheltering lead riders from the wind, becoming their waiters with food and bidons and generally being at the beck and call of others. Ultimately they make cycling the team sport that it is so often not credited for. Charles Wegelius was one such domestique who carved out a (successful) career in this role.
His book Domestique: The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro, co-written with his partner in ‘crime’ from the 2005 World Championship in Madrid, Tom Southam, is an eye watering expose into the professional peloton in which he inhabited through the 2000’s. The starkest tones of his story show just how much he was willing to sacrifice in order to make it as first an amateur and then a pro. Arguably it was this mentality that made him such a cherished domestique by teams in Europe.
From the first enquiry to his mother to ask whether she could write a letter to his headmaster to allow him to train during sports afternoons at school, to leaving York to join Vendee U in France as an amateur, Wegelius’ passion and drive for the sport jumps from the text on the page and virtually smacks you in the face. His mentality and feelings are laid bare for all to see and arguably what makes this different from the standard Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish story. Ultimately, no other recent cycling autobiography is more revealing. Perhaps only David Millar’s Racing Through The Dark (read our review here) and Tyler Hamilton’s The Secret Race come close to revealing what it is really like inside professional road cycling and both of those almost entirely focus on the doping aspect of the support. His constant unhappiness and lack of contentment despite success is a telling thread which runs throughout the book. Indeed, insecurities are never far from the forefront of Wegelius’ mind.
Before British Cycling’s track success was replicated on the road with the BC Academy/Team Sky etc, Wegelius had to do what all other British road riders had had to do over the previous few decades to be successful – make a go of it in Europe. The classic stories emerge of ramshackle houses provided by teams, the culture shock of European life, but also the young Wegelius showing how passionate he was about success. A classic example: He asked his then manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau to allow him to race (his French racing license was currently in limbo at the time) at an event – he drove to the event in a team camper, set the bike up himself and travelled without a masseur. To his teammates incredulity he duly won the race. Yet again insecurities arise. Wegelius writes that on winning the Under-23 national Road Race and coming second in the European Time Trial Championships as an amateur he felt “victory wasn’t something special that I felt I should sit back and enjoy.” He actually felt that, “a win was simply another box ticked in what was turning out to be an infinite list of boxes I had to tick to be content.”
His meticulous approach to life as an amateur transcended from keeping his bike clean after every ride, washing it with diesel, to competing with another amateur on who could spend the less on everyday essentials. Yet, Wegelius comes to recognise that, “society’s admiration for athletes is based entirely on the achievement of an ideal.” He realises that the sacrifices he has made to become the athlete he so desperately wanted to be, has made him a difficult person to be around.
Throwing all the personal anecdotes aside the book still fantastically illustrates the idiosyncrasies of the pro peloton. Obviously given his career with Italian teams, Mapei, De Nardi and Liquigas the majority of incites have a distinct flavour to them. Old riders tales such as wearing as much clothing whilst training are very enjoyable and occasions such as the 2005 Vuelta, where temperatures were heading into the 40°C Spanish riders were seen warming up on rollers with woollen hats, leggings and arm warmers are a delight to read. The book finishes with a wonderfully poignant tale which is topped by a realisation that Wegelius had found the truth about being inside the professional peloton: “it’s no f***king fairytale.” Overall, a delight from start to finish; perhaps the only thing missing is a further insight into life on the Giro d’Italia in which Wegelius was so well versed.
CyclingShorts Rating: Star Buy! – 90%
Domestique – The Real Life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro
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When considering a cycling holiday, one of the first destinations many will think of is France. The rolling mountains, the colour littered fields, the warm sunny weather and all the fresh carbs you can dream of from the local patisserie.
So, I guess it’s no surprise that I spent a week en France this summer dans ma velo!
The Vercors, a region not familar to most, is a range of mountains in the Rhone-Alps, otherwise known as the Prealps; a 1.5 hour drive from Lyon or half an hour from Valence (Eurostar/TGV drop off). The scenery is simply stunning. Sheer rock faces suddenly appear on the horizon, displaying thousands’ of years of history, as the surrounding farmlands provide green tranquility. And, the roads through and around the Vercors are not only well kept (no sneaky pot holes) but quiet too. And by quiet, I mean you’ll see only 1 or 2 cars on a 4 hour ride!
Within riding distance are the beautiful and historic towns and view points of Pont en Royans, who’s houses hug the cliff-side; St Nazaire en Royans which is over shadowed by its aqueduct and fresh water lake; and Europe’s largest gorge, the Combe Laval; which, when cycling through can only be described as a scene from a James Bond car chase.
I stayed with Velo Vercors, a small but specialised cycling holidays company run by Roger Dunne – an ex GB pro cyclist, and his wife Teresa. Velo Vercors cater for everyone, that is, families that may get out on their bikes a couple of times a year but want to explore the French countryside, through to training camps for cycling clubs (sounds familiar!). And, with a broad range of abilities they also provide a range of suggested/mapped rides from 10-20km routes to spend the day at the lake; to a climb (and descent) up Alpe d’Huez, only 1.5 hours drive away. Arranging bike hire prior to your arrival, travelling there couldn’t be easier.
Their typically ‘French’ property, in the heart of St Jean Royans, one of the larger towns in the region, boasts self-catering gites (rural cottages) for a weekly break or B&B accommodation with independent front door access for shorter stays. All surrounded by fantastic gardens, a ‘summer lounge’ and of course, over-looked by the stunning mountainside. Plus, there’s an open-air pool a 2 minute walk up the road for the well needed rest days, and a masseuse on call to ease out the tight legs after a hard day’s climbing.
Roger, cycling clearly in his blood, is available as a cycle guide or domestique, which makes riding in a new area a breeze – there’s no worrying about taking the wrong turn, plus with his experience, he provides great advice and tips on the climbs and descents. God knows how he keeps going though – Alpe d’Huez twice and Mont Venteux in the space of 1.5 weeks? He must have a motor hidden somewhere!
All in all, a week at Velo Vercors may be absolutely shattering, but is definitely a holiday worth taking!
– Local area ride I took: http://runkeeper.com/user/hayleydavies/activity/100305127
– Tour of the Vercors including Pont en Royans, Col de Carrie and Combe Laval: http://runkeeper.com/user/hayleydavies/activity/100676919
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Mark Langlands - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
Conversation with Mark Langlands of Pure Black Racing
National pride is a powerful motivator and now, as ‘Le Tour de France’ takes center stage, there are many-fans and athletes alike, who wonder what the future of cycling will look like. But there are also those who continue to believe in the beauty of cycling and the tremendous potential it can provide corporations and nations alike.
Enter Carl Williams and his new Pure Black Racing Team. With a personal background at the highest levels of professional sailing and embracing the legendary New Zealand competitive spirit of a country hungry to branch out and challenge the world, Williams is invoking the aura of the hugely popular ‘All Blacks’ rugby team to create a new road racing presence in cycling.
New Zealand is certainly not new to cycling with standout riders the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston who year after year garnering worldwide attention in the pro peloton. Up until recently though, the emphasis for most up and coming Kiwi cyclists has been on the track. Pure Black Racing is out to change that, with the support of the national cycling federation and a growing list of enthusiastic sponsors and young riders, hungry to compete with the best.
The team has created a lot of early season buzz with the successes of Roman Van Uden and Mike Nothey at San Dimas, and Tim Gudsell taking the overall at Sommerville. With the additional experience of NRC pro Glen Chadwick providing a strong backbone for the team, the young New Zealand Pure Black riders, racing abroad in the US many for the first time, have plenty of motivation from their mates and their management.
I was on hand at the recent Air Force Crystal Classic, where the young Pure Black Racing Team was putting up impressive performances in a very competitive field. We caught up with rider Mark Langlands and got a look inside this exciting new team, its reliance on culture and the hopes for the future…
How did you get started in cycling?
Mark Langlands: I started doing BMX when I was 5 years old, continued with that until I was 13. There was really no opportunities to represent NZ until I was 18, so started Road Cycling when I was 12, and stopped doing BMX a year later.
Do you remember your first bike and any adventures that made you love to jump on your bike and ride?
Mark: I can’t remember my first BMX bike, but I do remember building some jumps on the driveway and throwing myself over them. Living on a farm, my Dad built us a track in one of the paddocks and we’d spend hours just riding up and down, normally coming back inside when some skin was missing or something was broken. My first road bike was an Apollo, I’d just get on and ride, go exploring and finding new roads and places.
What led to you getting your first pro contract?
Mark: I was approached by fellow Pure Black rider Mike Northey at Tour of Wellington in 2010 and asked if I wanted to join the Bici Vida Team that he was a part of at the time. Carl Williams, who was the director, got in contact with me and it sort of snowballed from there. I rode the 2010 season in New Zealand for Bici Vida, which just before Tour of Southland in November became Pure Black Racing and gained a UCI Continental Licence.
Do you think the concept of “team” on and off the course helps keep the team together. Would it be the same professional group without it?
Mark: Of course. When Carl put the team together he wanted to bring a group of guys together that got along well with each other. I think if the team was made up of riders who believed that they were constantly better than the others, then we would not have the same atmosphere within the team.
How often during the season do you race? When does your season begin & end? Do you race here [USA] and then back in NZ or is Boulder your home away from home for now?
Mark: Its kind of hard to determine when the season begins and ends for us. With our National Champs in January, its pretty important to be going well for that. So prior to that we’ve got a block of domestic racing from October through to the end of January, which incorporates the Tours of Southland and Wellington. Then with Pure Black, we race here in the United States from March until August, doing the NRC races and a few UCI tours, which is the most important part of the year for us. So our year is split between living in Boulder, and back home in NZ.
Cycling is a team sport with riders dependent on a tight knit group for support, but there seems to be something special about teams from New Zealand and Australia. Do you feel this is the case? What do you think accounts for it?
Mark: I guess being from a bottom end of the world and geographically isolated from the main cycling nations, when we do come away as a team overseas we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other to show that we are genuine contenders against those nations. And the satisfaction of proving that we can achieve results as a small cycling nation, makes the determination to get those results all the more greater. Even off the bike, especially here in Boulder, the Kiwis and the Aussies get on well together. I mean NZ is pretty much part of Australia according to most people over here so we should get along.
Do you have certain races right now where you are designated to score a victory or be the lead rider? Or is your job right now to ride mainly in support of others? Does that role change during a race (stage or one-day) or is it generally planned out ahead of time?
Mark: Not at this stage. At the moment, I’m content with being a support rider for the leaders of the team. If the opportunity arises to get a result however, then I won’t turn it down. I guess it can change slightly depending on whether people have good or bad days during a stage race or one-day race, and how the race unfolds on the road. We’re always able to adjust to what happens to ensure the best result possible for the team.
How would you define the term cycling “domestique” and what do you think that cyclist’s role is?
Mark: Someone who is unselfish enough to sacrifice their result to ensure the team as a whole gets a result.
Tell me a little about the mental side of riding in support of someone in a race. How do you “suffer” for someone else?
Mark: For me, first of all, I believe its a matter of respect for the person you are riding for. If you don’t have respect for that person, then you can’t suffer and hurt yourself to support them. I think once you have respect, then the mental part comes easily. If you start to doubt the other riders ability then it makes it that much harder to ride for them, so you have to back yourself to do your job but being able to push yourself that much further as a support rider is having confidence in your team mates ability as well.
Do you have a mentor on the team or are most of you guys about the same age and time in cycling?
Mark: Most of the guys are around the same age within the team, but one person who I do admire as a rider is Tim Gudsell. We both belong to the same club back in New Zealand, and he’s helped me from when I was a young rider through to being a member of Pure Black, so I have the upmost respect for him as a rider and a person. And now riding together with him in the same team, makes it pretty incredible to be riding with a person you have so much respect for.
You’ve had some serious injuries in cycling and have come back to be a great cyclist. Do you think the time away in recovery changed you in any way?
Mark: I think more than anything, the time I had in recovery made me realise how much I loved the sport of Cycling. I was just more determined to make it back, prove to myself I could make it back, and I think that mentally strengthened me to push myself harder to achieve my goals, not only as a cyclist, but also in life as well.
At the Air Force Crystal Cup race, some of you guys had a fun day out and about on rental City Bikes and saw the sights of Washington DC. On Pure Black is there a good feeling of comaraderie between all the members of the team? Tell me a bit about the team dynamic on and off the race.
Mark: Definitely! We are all friends on and off the bike, which makes it easier to gel together when we are racing. Back here in Boulder, we’re always having a BBQ at team mates houses, which is good to have a bit of relaxing time away from the bike. When we’re away from the bike, we’re all relaxed, when its race time, we’re all there in support of one another. There’s no ego’s in the team which also produces a real good dynamic between the riders and staff, whether we’re at a race or back here in Boulder.
Team Pure Black Racing - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
You’ve written some great race pieces for the Team website. Is that something you enjoy doing in the off time–writing? Do you have any off the bike hobbies?
Mark: Ha ha! I do quite enjoy writing, I’m pretty useless at having an artistic side so if I can paint a picture using words then that’s my art coming through. I was actually doing Journalism at University last year but I wasn’t able to bring through my own personal flair, I felt a bit too restricted, so now I just write for my own pleasure and let people enjoy the flair I try to get into my writing.
I also find that cooking is pretty therapeutic for me, I enjoy getting my creative streak on in the kitchen, trying new things and creating something from nothing.
I’ve also got a passion for wine, hopefully once I get back to New Zealand I’ll plant myself a couple of rows of vines out the back of my house, a combination of Malbec and Pinot Gris vines to create my own wine. I want to own my own vineyard at some point in the future.
I think its good to have interests outside of cycling, it gets one out of the monotony of just riding your bike each day.
Who is your favorite top Pro-Tour cyclist? Did you have any favorite riders as a kid, or did you have heros from other sports (or from life or history)?
Mark: I don’t so much have a favourite Pro Tour cyclist, though I do admire Edvald Boasson-Hagen. It’s kind of hard to have a favourite when you don’t know the person personally. I can only do what my own personal abilities and determination allow me to do.
Outside of road cycling, I admire my brother [Paul Langlands] as a freestyle BMX rider. To be honest, I used to think it was all a big joke, it wasn’t really a sport. But after watching the skill involved, and the risk he puts himself through, it is pretty impressive. My coach, Brendon Cameron is another person who I look up to as a person and mentor. He has been helping me since I was a skinny little baggy-shorted rider coming into the bike shop when I first started, and both him and his partner Sarah, have been there for me throughout my career.
Thanks to Avanti, Shimano, Pure Black Racing, Kenda and Peak Fuel.
This month at CyclingShorts.uk.com I’m bringing you an exclusive, we’re excited to feature a great article by my friend Fitzalan Gorman from www.usprocyclingnews.com She caught up with the riders of BMC Racing to get their thoughts on teammates and how that will play a part in their continued success on the world circuits of the UCI Pro-Tour.
American Riders on BMC Racing: Larry Warbasse, Taylor Phinney, John Murphy, George Hincapie show off 2011 team colors at Spain Press day - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
Training camp is often the only time of the year that all riders, directeur sportifs and staff are all together in the same place. While officially it is work, these few weeks are the calm before the storm that is the long professional cycling season. At the end of January, BMC Racing held its training camp along the Spanish coastline near Denia. This area has fairly quiet roads with lots of options including flats and undulating, hilly terrain. While here, I got a chance to talk with various members of BMC Racing to find out a little more about the teammate side of cycling.
Cadel Evans and Tim Roe at Press Day in Spain 2011 - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
So what do you think of your new teammates?
Brent Bookwalter: “These guys add a certain level of class and experience to the team. Many of the new guys have serious Grand Tour experience and are veterans at the pro tour level in both age and experience. I’m rooming with Ivan Santaromita. We are the same age, he was born in 1984, but he has been racing in the pro tour longer than I’ve been racing road bikes. Guys like that, guys who have been around the block, are very capable, classy and accomplished riders and there is a lot of depth there.”
Cadel Evans: “I’m rooming with Yannick Eijssen. He has so many questions and is so motivated. I can only hope that I am giving him good advice. Along with Tim Roe, I hope that I can help develop these young riders better. I’m also excited about having Manuel Quinziato for the Tour de France. He will probably have the biggest influence on my results.”
What do you think of your mentorship with Chris Butler?
George Hincapie: “I have a bit more mentorship role with Chris than with the other riders because I train with him all the time. He has a ton of potential. He had one of the highest watts per kilo at camp for this time of year, which I was excited about. He needs to learn how to ride in the peloton and how to ride on the flats, but when it comes to his climbing, he is definitely world class.”
George Hincapie at BMC Press Day interview in Spain - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
As a rookie, how do you take advantage of the wealth of experience offered from your veteran teammates?
Chris Butler: “I definitely try to soak it all up. I live 2 kilometers away from George in Greenville, so I am definitely biased towards him but there are so many resources on this team. I feel like Karsten Kroon can ride a bike better than anyone else in the peloton. I just want to follow him around and learn all of that information.”
BMC Racing feels different from so many other pro tour teams: There is no other agenda here other than racing. Do you feel this way?
Brent Bookwalter: “Obviously the objective here is to win and to get results but I think we are really fortunate that our head sponsor, Andy Rihs, the head management, Jim Ochowicz, and the heads of this team are not “win at any cost” kind of guys. They place a lot of value in creating a team more than just bodies pursuing results. They are creating a real family with the hopes that true results will arise from that. I feel that we are fortunate to be in this type of environment over one that demands winning.”
John Murphy: “I feel that if you took the same group of guys, and put them first in a situation that demanded they win, and then you put them in a situation where the team provided everything they needed in terms of products and support, 9 times out 10, the supportive environment is where the riders will succeed. I think it is the best approach to anything competitive. Demanding winning isn’t the right psychology.”
Many hours are spent riding for someone else. Tell me a little bit about the mental side of riding in support of one of your teammates.
Brent Bookwalter: “Whether it is George, Karsten, Cadel or anyone else on this team, you step up. I think anytime you care about a person, on a personal level–more than just a coworker level – there is a greater incentive; there is more at stake than career success. There is personal success because you can honestly be happy about that person stepping up on the podium at the end of the race instead of yourself.”
How hard is it to put your personal agenda aside to support your teammates?
John Murphy in Spain at BMC Press Day - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
John Murphy: “You work for the team and know that you will get your time. It has to go both ways and it is a constantly revolving circle. As much as you want to be the one winning and putting your arms up in the air, nobody does that by himself. If you are lucky enough to be that person, then you have to appreciate everything that everyone else is doing for you.”
Brent Bookwalter: “At this point, we are all professionals. You create longevity and professional success in this sport by fulfilling that role. To some extent, you can have satisfaction in it. You can think, it is not my job to win at the end of the race but it is my job to cover the pack for the first 100 km and I am going to turn myself inside out to do that. It definitely isn’t a thankless job.”
Final Impressions on Teamwork and BMC Racing:
While here in Denia for the BMC training camp and press day, I was impressed by the individual strength of each rider, but it was the overall spirit of cooperation amongst the team that left a lasting impact with me.Cadel Evans explained the uniqueness of BMC Racing perfectly when he said; “I am allowed to be myself on this team”. This team just feels different; the respect and attitude between the staff, riders and coaches can be seen in every interaction they have with one another. While everyone’s goal is for BMC to win races, it feels like they are working towards this goal collectively, much like a family.
BMC riders: Jeff Louder, Chris Butler, Brent Bookwalter, Chad Beyer, Chris Barton at Press Day 2011 - Image ©Copyright Fitzalan Gorman/ usprocyclingnews.com
Many thanks to John Murphy, Brent Bookwalter, Chris Butler, George Hincapie and Cadel Evans for taking a few moments to talk with me about the team and for giving us an inside look into how teamwork plays into the fabric of BMC Racing. Best of luck to BMC Racing with all their goals in this upcoming season!
Jay Thomson & Ben Day at Wind Tunnel Mooresville, NC Image ©Copyright CristiRuhlman
I caught up with Ben Day of Pegasus Racing and Fly V Australia to get his take on just how “mateship” and teammates played a part in their successful 2010 season. As the team is in the process of applying for a UCI ProTour license, I also wanted to know how that philosophy will play out as the team moves over to Europe to compete in the 2011 season.
When we think of a cycling domestique, we usually think of individuals. Those cyclists who ride in the peloton giving shelter to their GC rider, bringing food and water and pretty much being the unknown force behind the pro-peloton.
But… what if an entire team could be that way–sharing the responsibilities and promoting a culture of just that: TEAMWORK. Might it not be a driving force on the cycling scene, one with a very special team solidarity?
There is a team that has done just that, and done it successfully. That team is Pegasus Racing’s FlyVAustralia. In fact, during their time on the US domestic scene, they’ve ridden together so successfully, this year alone they have scored 84 wins; that they have now made application to the UCI to head to Europe and ride there, hopefully as a ProTour team.
Tell us about “mateship” on FlyV and how its actually helped you and the guys be so successful this season? And also how you see it working as Pegasus Racing takes it to the next level?
Ben Day: The whole mateship ideology, we kind of garnered out of how in Australia we call each other “mate” all the time. It lends itself for us to be a lot more friendly to each other, I guess you could say it’s teamwork Aussie style. But in this context with the team, it just reinforced the importance of what it means to work together as a team and sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team. It’s teamwork with no personal agendas, as is often the case in other systems. I believe we have 84 wins so far for 2010 with one more tour to go, so you have to say its working really, really well. The challenge will be going into next year with the new ProTour team. For us going in there and bringing in some foreign riders and staff, we’ll be trying to teach this method to them as well, and see if they can take up where we’ve left off.
FlyV Australia team Image ©Copyright FlyVAustralia.com
You guys have had such great success here in the USA. With the team dynamic that we’ve seen, you all have something special. How do you think that’s going to translate to the new team? Tell us a bit more about that.
Ben: It’s going to be a bit of a challenge in itself. You know, these guys we’ve hired, we’ve hired them with the intention and foresight that these are going to be great people to have involved with the team. It’s a process, not one that just happens naturally though. In the beginnings of 2010, we did some helicopter crash training to help bring the group together and to be in some stressful situations together and learn more about each other. And that helped us with the rest of the season, where we had a lot of success.
But we kind of operate on a very honest platform. And when someone’s done a good job, like when someone wins a race, they’ve done a great job and they don’t really need a lot more pats on the back. But guys who’ve sacrificed themselves for somebody else to win the race, those moments, they’re the ones that are the most important to say, “really good job, well done, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have won.” You really need to appreciate that kind of thing.
We have a very honest and open communication with everybody on the team. But at the same time, if somebody doesn’t do their job we also hold them accountable. So I think having that is… to put it bluntly… a no bullshit platform to work on, people are held accountable. If they’re good, they get congratulated; and if they don’t, then we sit down and talk about it. It’s not just left for people to figure over or for people to talk behind other people’s back. We’re open and honest with each other and we genuinely care about the bloke next to us. When we celebrate, we celebrate together. When we lose, we rally together to support each other for the next feat.
You’ve also signed alot of Aussies for 2011. Like you said, you call yourselves “mates”, do you think it’s in the culture and might make it a bit easier to fit into the team?
Ben: Yeah, it’s definitely in the culture. We’re just like that – Australians are very laid back people and don’t get worked up over small things. You know we’ve signed 11 riders, and so far there are also 11 foreign riders with still spaces to fill. So for the moment, and we will always be, an Australian team. I think that Chris White’s spent a lot of time making sure that he finds people who are willing to…….people who have similar mindsets, the personality of working hard, being laid back willing to comeback and do it for the team. They are going to be our mates and we’re all going to have a great year next year I’m sure.
Ben refines TT position - Image ©Copyright Randy Ruhlman
For next year, we’ve heard that you’ve already got Robbie McEwen and Robbie Hunter. They’re both veterans, but they also know how much hard work it is and how much they have to depend on the team. Are you looking for more guys like them, or more all-rounders, GC, or what?
Ben: At the moment we’ve been able to get a really, really good Classics team together. For now we’re a little bit short when it comes to GC guys, people who are capable of performing in three week tours. But you know when you look across the peloton, there aren’t a lot of teams that do have GC contenders in these 3-week tours.
Looks like you have got some nice young riders, and you have some on the roster who are coming with you, like Jai Crawford and Jay Thomson to name a few. So you should have good development on the team then?
Ben: Yeah, we still have a few spots left and we’re going to see who’s left on the marketplace, but then we need to develop as well. We’ve got some young, very talented riders on board, and in a year or two, you never know, these riders might be knocking on the door of the biggest tours in the world.
You mentioned that you had a good Classics team, as well. Do you think you’re going to do a lot of the Classics or focus on development and some of the shorter tours?
Ben: For sure, but the whole process, the ProTour process is still pending. We don’t know, whether we’ll get the license – it gets in there anywhere between Nov 1st and the 15th. But we have some guys who are very, very established in the Classics already. And they are excellent cyclists and they have great reputations. I’m sure we’re going to have starts in a lot of the biggest Classics in the world. So I think that will kind of be the focus in the first year, and where we’re guaranteed to have some people up there getting results.
But then, still as well, there are people who come out of the woodwork and we’ll be at tours and trying for stage wins and just trying to better ourselves all the time. We haven’t been in Europe for a while and we’re going in there with the realisation that it’s not going to be easy. But, you know, doing what we’ve done in the US, we’ve proven we can win races and we’ve got that experience already, so now we’ve got to get over there and amongst it and I’m sure there’s going to be alot of surprises next year.
Ben Day ready for another run on the wind tunnel - Image ©Copyright Cristi Ruhlman
You’ve been a GC guy on the domestic tour here in the US, but these are mainly one week or shorter tours. Are you looking more at the Classics or the shorter tours or straight towards the grand tours?
Ben: The shorter tours. I’ve been in Europe for 6 years previously, so I’ve raced alot of those big tours over there, just haven’t done the 3-week tours. The week-long tours, I’m more than confident that I can handle those and that I will have some good results in those in 2011. But when it comes to the three week tours, I’m humble enough to realise I don’t have the experience yet–there’s alot to learn about recovery… and it’s very rare for a first time Grand Tour rider to come in there and really take the world by storm. It’s happened, but they are really super-talented athletes. I’m just taking it step-by-step and I’ve got quite a few years left in my career and hoping by the end of things, maybe we’re having a different conversation. But let’s wait and see.
Anything else you think you might want to share with us about the new additions and larger Pegasus Racing and “mateship”?
Ben: It should be a good fit, but it’s not going just happen naturally–we’re going to have make sure we put some emphasis on it, as well. We’re planning a training camp in Outback Australia in November. It’s where we’re all going to get together for the first time. I’m sure we’re going to have some “interesting” little activities out there – get to know each other better, be at one together. It’s like a bit of a different concept to Saxo Bank’s survival camp. We do other things, but this is more to bring each other together, to learn more about each other, and it’s worked really, really well so far.
MATESHIP is the mantra that Pegasus Racing/Fly V Australia has put into practice. There is no denying its success on the US scene and that it has propelled them to the next step and towards the team’s European destiny for 2011. With the UCI making it’s decision within the next few weeks on that future, it will be very interesting to follow the team and watch as Pegasus Racing’s concept of ”mateship” launches onto the European scene.
Team Time Trial--2009 Tour de France Image ©Copyright AFP
Who are these riders who give their all in support of the team and its superstar cyclists? Who are the domestiques?
Let’s make no mistake here, all pro-peloton domestiques are super talented riders. They’ve won races throughout their careers and show great promise.
Of course, they have to be that good. If they weren’t great cyclists, they’d never come anywhere close to being considered for a Pro-Tour team. Nor would they be part of that chosen few who support the team in the big races, the Giro, Vuelta, the Tour de France. It’s the pinnacle, the place where all great cyclist aspire to be.
On Cycling Shorts I’d like to spotlight these riders, look at some history of how domestiques and tactics have developed, and profile current and retired domestique riders. In the meantime, maybe we can also get a few to talk about their experiences as professional riders and domestiques.
First though, I really want to start with an ideal, a model of what I think has evolved into the Ultimate Domestique. This is the rider with exceptional, star talent who choses to ride in support of the team instead of inflating his own palmarès.
Yes, it is true. Most of cycling’s superstars started their careers as domestiques-carrying water bottles, blocking the wind, protecting the star rider, then they developed. Lance did, Boonen did, even Contador did, and some of today’s top riders still play both roles, in a sort of super domestique way: stars in some races, support in others.
But occasionally, through circumstances of team or timing, a rider will fulfill the supreme supporting role; that of the Ultimate Domestique. An outstanding rider, one who could easily be a superstar on a different, lesser team, yet he is someone who choses to be part of something bigger. The Ultimate Domestique is that star cyclist who choses to ride and give his all in support of another and help the team win a major Tour!
So, who is my choice? Which rider epitomizes that role of the Ultimate Domestique? Hands down, it’s Andreas Klöden.
Photo Courtesy of Team RadioShack
An outstanding rider in his own right, Kloden’s individual talents on the bike are really pretty darn impressive. Twice he’s finished second at the Tour de France (2004, 2006), won at Paris-Nice (2000), and brought home a Bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Yet, he’s chosen time and time again to spend his career with the some of the world’s best teams (Team Telekom/T-Mobile, Astana) riding in support of the most heralded superstars of this generation–Ullrich, Armstrong, and Contador. And much to the frustration of those covetous Team Directors who would love to pay him to come be the big star on their teams.
Klöden has used his talent and stamina to support his team leader through the mountains, in the time trials, and through the grueling weeks of a Grand Tours with the focus on the Tour win for the team. Once again it looks like Klöden will quietly operate away from the intense glare of the spotlight and continue to play his role as the ultimate domestique, this year with his new Team RadioShack.
Having seemingly been dropped from the media’s tentacles, Klöden rarely gives an interview anymore–which is a shame, because among other things he seems like he’d be a pretty fun guy to get to know. Instead he allows his performance on the bike to speak for itself, but that probably says more than dozens of interviews ever could.
So, while I think we may get lucky and see a few more individual accolades before Klöden retires from professional cycling, one thing appears to be certain, he’s discovered his place and he seems happy. Andreas Klöden has found his cycling balance as the ultimate team player — the Ultimate Domestique.