Cyclingnews talks with Charly Wegelius

A coffee stop with Charly

By Gabriella Ekström
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Photo: © Mapei-Quick Step

Finnish-born Englishman Charly Wegelius has completed two years as a pro with Mapei-Quick Step, previously riding for their U23 team. It's still early days for him in the professional scene, but he is hoping to repay some of Mapei's trust in him through the 2002 season. The following exchange between him and Gabriella Ekström took place in a virtual coffee shop, where Charly relates how he began his journey in cycling and where he intends to go.

CN: What would you like? They have black coffee, latte, tea...?

CW: I'll have a coffee please.

CN: Milk and sugar?

CW: Black, two big sugars, thanks.

CN: I have heard that your father is a show jumper. How has it affected you that your father is a professional sportsman? Personally I'm quite fascinated by most horse sports, I used to like Nelson Pessoa and his Special Envoy, has this sport had any influence on you?

CW: I think I inherited his drive and perfectionist streak which kind of makes you right for sport. He has always let me do what I wanted to do, but also pushed me to do my best. My brother and I both rode when we were young and spent a lot of time around horses.

I think seeing the big competitions close up gave me a taste for top level sport, but I think I got an overdose of horse sports at a young age and lost interest. Being around horses bored me after a while because it was normal, and when you are young, you get bored easily.

CN: Now, being Swedish as I am, I cannot believe that your name is originally pronounced 'Vay-gay-lay-oos'. C'mon, prove me right!

CW: More or less, a bit more like Vay-gay-lee-oos! Its not a very common name, but don't worry, everyone pronounces it differently, I'm over get worried about it!

CN: You took up cycling after being inspired by Stephen Roche. Tell me about it?

CW: In England the only race that gets shown on TV is the Tour de France and as we were on summer holidays me and my friends started watching. It was a pretty exciting Tour that year and it really got my attention (especially the day he collapsed at La Plagne, that really appealed!).

It was an alternative to football or cricket which is what most kids play in England. We started racing around on our bikes, and the trips got longer and longer until we ended up doing rides of up to 200km. I remember one year we rode out to watch the Leeds Classic at Holme Moss, which was a 220km round trip...I wouldn't do that now!

CN: I get your point, but exactly what is it that is so appealing about a sportsman collapsing? You would think it should scare people from taking up cycling rather than the opposite?

CW: I don't really know! I suppose its a bit sick, but it just kind of drew me in that he had pushed himself so far to reach his goal. I found it fascinating.

CN: Who is the greatest guy in the peloton today, and why?

CW: That's easy! Its Johan Museeuw. I had a lot of respect for him before, but spending last year with him made me realise what a top guy he is. He was always really cool with us "giovane", just following him around at races taught me so much.

CN: When you were contacted by Serge Parsani from Mapei, you didn't understand that he was talking about a contract with the real Mapei. Did you think he was talking about an amateur team?

CW: I didn't really know what to think! I had been riding well all year, it was already September and no pro team had even called me and I was beginning to lose hope. Of all the teams to talk to me first, I never imagined Mapei would be one of them. After they spoke to me a few other teams started to show interest...strange!

CN: Now you have a contract with Mapei for 2002 as well?

CW: I signed a contract in August for another year. I feel pretty lucky because there a lot of good riders with no work for next year, especially in Italy. I am very happy here. The only pressure we have is to work as hard as we can, not to win at any cost. When I was sick the team was so good with me, and I think that the fact that they gave me another contract shows that they believe in me. I intend to pay them back double in 2002.

CN: In 98 you had a bad motorcycle crash. I have always wondered, when someone is young and ambitious and restless for things to happen, how do you deal with a situation like that? Do you have any advice for others who are injured or are having a bad time because of their sport?

CW: I was in Ireland with my best friend Aidan Duff, and we were fooling around on a Quad Bike, which rolled over. I broke my spleen, which had to be removed, and my ankle, which now has two titanium bolts in. Everyone deals with things like that their own way. They first told me that I would never ride a bike again, which panicked me a bit, but you just have to pick yourself up try to use it as a positive influence. I told myself that compared to the pain of the accident, no bike race could hurt that much!

I set myself objectives for when I was going to walk, and then for when I was going to get on the rollers and then onto the road and so on. It made me really motivated to get back and prove to people that it hadn't finished me off. I went to Spain and trained like never before and had the best season of my life. I think anyone having problems only has to look at Johan to see that if you put your mind to it you can get over difficulty.

CN: A lot of young Brit's are emerging on the sky of cycling...I would even count Dave Millar as young. What do you have to say about your colleagues, and are there names we haven't heard about yet that you can tell us about?

CW: I think that if a guy from any country that isn't part of cycling tradition, including England, wants to become a pro then they have to make a lot of sacrifice. That means that those who do make it are really good. Look at the don't get many dud Aussie pros do you? I have known David since we were juniors and he always had something special, I think he might win a big tour one day. Everyone has heard about Bradley, but there are other guys like Yanto Barker who can do well. There is a good junior called Kieran Page, but he needs a bit of time.

CN: What's this thing about the cold lasagna? Doesn't Italy offer anything better?

CW: Oh yea! They have the best prosciutto, tiramisu, torta di verdura, risotto, pizza, wine...shall I go on? My mum's cooking is still the best though - She does a mean apple crumble and custard!

Charly Wegelius Bio

Born: April 26, 1978 in Espoo (Finland)
Nationality: British
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 60 kg
Turned professional: 2000
Teams: Mapei-Quick Step (2000-2001)


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