Wegelius to Garmin as DS. Risky or brilliant?

Charlie and his fan club flamingoes at Tour of California.

On first take, it’s an intriguing and perhaps risky move. Jonathan Vaughters has hired Charles Wegelius as a director Sportif for Garmin-Cervelo.

Wegelius spend a dispiriting year at Silence-Lotto and then a far happier season in 2011 with the friendly folks at UnitedHealthcare. He was the climber domestique for their top GC rider Rory Sutherland.

It’s intriguing because Wegelius does have a wealth of experience to pass on after a career riding in big races like the Giro d’Italia. Still, it also seems a little risky. Our sense is Wegelius is a pretty moody guy, up and down emotionally. He’s had some hard times and his family life hasn’t been easy with the constant travel.

We interviewed Wegelius at this year’s Tour of California. He knew he was on his last ride and didn’t mind talking in candid terms. He’s got a great sense of humor but you never known which Charley you might get — the happy or the sad.

According to quotes by Vaughters, he based his hiring decision on one main factor that guaranteed a good fit at Garmin: Charlie is quirky. “Culturally he’ll fit in with our quirky but professional organization,” said the argyle genius. It could be that Vaughters still misses Bradley Wiggins’ wit and humor and hopes Wegelius can bring that Brit comedy back.

It’s interesting that Vaughters choose to speak about communication skills. In person, Wegelius is not a super outgoing, gregarious kind of guy. We spent five days with the team in California and he seemed fairly quiet and unassuming. So perhaps there’s a more of a low-key intelligence to his communication style.

Obviously Vaughters feels that Wegelius matches the profile for a Garmin-Cervelo DS. “I need them to be of a certain mentality and you can build the experience around that but that unique instinct to communicate, you’ve either got that or you don’t,” said Vaughters.

The only other qualification in Wegelius’ favor was an affinity for suffering. “You want guys that understand the racing. Sometimes you have to be a guy who has suffered during races and a guy that can’t afford to make mistakes. Charley has seen the race from all sides.” said Vaughters. “You look for the smartest guys, not the ones with the best VO2 max.”

At the end of the day — as Vaughters likes to say — Wegelius checked four essential boxes: quirky, communications skills, intimate knowledge of suffering and intelligence.

Actually, Wegelius has five major assets if you count the pink flamingoes.

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  • Actually Charly is a very good communicator, he was just wary of the press, with justification. As a rider he wanted to keep his head down and be allowed to get on with his job – an appropriate attitude for a helper rider. In his new role I think that we already see a different Charly, and he'll be very good at it I'm sure.

    • I'm thinking at Garmin that Charlie will feel free to express himself and that will be a very fun and rewarding time for him. Matt