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Bobby & Jens: Charly Wegelius

The Finnish domestique turned directeur sportif for EF Education–Nippo reveals what it takes behind the scenes to win bike races.

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We tend to remember the winners of races. But behind every winner are legions of lesser known supporting riders, coaches, and other staff who make those victories possible. For over a decade, Charly Wegelius was one of those support riders. He never stood atop a podium by himself in his pro career, but he made himself a valued member of many teams as a dedicated, reliable domestique. And he continues to help make those wins possible as a team director for EF Education–Nippo.

He got his start on the famed Mapei team, a time he calls “quite a whirlwind few years.” Sharing a team with riders like Johan Museeuw was understandably “a pretty exciting time” for Charly. He discusses the challenges of his early years in the pro peloton, including how hard it can be to prove yourself. “A two-year neo-pro contract, the clock ticks pretty quick,” he says.

But prove himself he did. Bobby & Jens co-host Jens Voigt calls riders like Charly “the backbone of any team,” the ones who do whatever’s asked of them or is required without hesitation. Charly’s years spent sacrificing for other riders has also turned out to be perfect training for his current role as a directeur sportif, because it is so often domestiques who best understand how to execute the team’s strategy on the road compared to the ones who actually win the races. Charly talks about what he thinks makes him so good at this job, as well as the coolest, and most frustrating, parts of his job. 

Charly has been in his role for about a decade now, and it has changed tremendously in that time. There’s some smaller things like going from paper maps to .GPX files. Then there’s the staggering amount of information available to riders and directors about everything from nutrition to training and more. “There’s quite a bit more to it than meets the eye,” Charly says about the job. But at the same time, there are also things that have stayed the same. 

Finally, the new year is almost here, and that means a new cycling season. Charly discusses the year ahead for his EF Education–Nippo team and the different approach to team camps that they take. Plus, he discusses Lachlan Morton’s alternative racing, including his unsupported riding of the entire Tour de France route with transfers this summer. “He tells such a great story, and I think he makes cycling better for all of us.”

Listen to the latest episode of Bobby & Jens for the full conversation.

“Bobby & Jens” is a weekly VeloNews podcast brought to you by Zwift. It stars former pros Bobby Julich and Jens Voigt and features conversations with top athletes, coaches, emerging stars, and other newsmakers from the wide world of cycling. A new episode drops every Friday. Subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.

Send your questions to BobbyandJens@VeloNews.com or Tweet @bobbyandjens.