Pro Cycling: for those who enjoy pain


domestique hamilton

I read Hamilton’s book first, which was a fascinating exposé of doping in the cycling world (spoiler: Armstrong is not a nice guy). I found Wegelius’ book about a year later. Being a casual cyclist, I had no prior knowledge of this world. It’s pretty nuts.

Wegelius doesn’t talk about doping at all. He describes life as a domestique – a worker bee who takes no personal glory. He says himself that nobody’s ever heard of him and he’s never won a single race.

Despite the negative setting, Hamilton still comes across as warm and approachable. Wegelius’ jaded attitude seems more appropriate for how bad things can be. He seems to get screwed over by a lot of people.

Although Hamilton is trashing Lance Armstrong, he still develops friendships with others, and really does seem to be the good guy. Growing up with an honesty-is-#1 rhetoric, Hamilton struggles with living with so many lies. “We felt like we had it all. But deep down, the truth was eating me.”

Wegelius, from the UK, an outsider coming on to French and Italian teams, works hard with language and personality to fit in with team members, then hates not being able to be himself. “I saw nothing, and I’m not an idiot” and “It’s no f*ing fairytale”. At least there’s one high point: meeting his wife.

It’s also interesting to compare the hematocrit levels – 50 being an arbitrary number to get close to, but not cross. To be competitive, Hamilton had to raise his hematocrit, whereas Wegelius had such a naturally high hematocrit that he had to lower it to pass the test.

Neither of them have good things to say about cycling. Both of them paint a picture of the sport as being brutal. Apparently every pro is a masochist. Everyone is hungry because being skinny helps you go faster. And doping or not, professional cycling is a world of pain. “If you’re not in pain, you’re not going fast enough.”

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