First of all though, we had to ask about his wedding – which took place in Finland – the week after the Tour de France.
PEZ: How did the day go, Charly?
Charly: Really, really good – it rolled into the next day. Weddings in Finland are pretty much the same as those in Britain – lots of alcohol and dancing!
PEZ: Being Scottish, I have to ask – any fights?
Charly: No! – one of the first things I congratulated myself on was that there were no punch ups!
PEZ: How many Vueltas is this and what’s your favourite Grand Tour?
Charly: This is my fourth Vuelta; the Giro is my favourite.
PEZ: What did you think of the prologue, held on a motor race circuit?
Charly: When we rode round in the pissing rain during training on Friday, I thought that it was going to be grim.
But in the event, 40,000 people appeared from nowhere to watch and they were all set on having a good fun day – like the Dutch do – so it was a good experience. I don’t know where they all came from; when we’ve been out training we’ve not seen a soul!
PEZ: If you finish this Vuelta, you’ll be the first GB rider to complete all three Grand Tours in one season – do you have a sense of history about that?
Charly: No, not at all. I think that stat would be buried so deep in the history books as to be difficult to find – so it’s not that relevant. But you never know, when I’m 60 I might start telling people about it!
PEZ: It’s a big mental and physical commitment.
Charly: It’s just part of the job!
PEZ: Stage one?
Charly: I was happy to get through it without trouble, it could have been a nasty day – there were a lot of crashes, but fortunately I managed to skirt them all.
There were no real attacks so things were steady in the bunch, which was just as well because the amount of road furniture was mind boggling.
It was like the Amstel Gold parcours; roundabouts, speed bumps, chicanes – not much fun!
PEZ: Ciolek, a bit of a surprise?
Charly: Not really, he’s been trying hard all year and been close, but Cavendish has eclipsed everybody this season.
It was a downhill finish – different sprinters have different characteristics – perhaps that’s his kind of finale?
Gerald Ciolek: beating on the door all year, finally let in to the buffet of success.
PEZ: What do you think of the parcours, this year?
Charly: The second week will be the decider; I’m familiar with Sierra Nevada and the finish to Pandera; I climbed them in the 2002 Vuelta.
The Pandera climb is on a private road up to a military observatory and it’s really tough.
Still, it will be good entertainment for those watching the race on TV!
PEZ: That long transfer looks bit sore.
Charly: It’s not good, no. When they have the rest day early like that to enable the transfer it’s a pain in the ass; it makes for a long block of racing until the second rest day.
And it’s a serious pain in the ass for the soigneurs and mechanics; they have to get all the vehicles from Belgium down to Spain, that day – there’ll be lost of cups of strong coffee getting drunk!
PEZ: What’s your role in the race?
Charly: The team is aware that I’m coming into this race maybe not at 100%, I didn’t expect to be riding so I’ll have to use the first week to ride myself in – I’m here to help Cadel but it’s really squeezing the last few drops of juice from the lemon, as far as my form goes.
Along with Cadel’s overall chances, the team will be aiming to help Philippe Gilbert to some stage wins.
PEZ: Is this your last race of the year?
Charly: I hope so! Perhaps I could enlist Pez readers to start a ‘Let Charly Have a Rest’ email campaign?
PEZ: How’s team morale?
Charly: Good, we have guys on the squad in good shape – Philippe Gilbert is building up for the Worlds and the late season classics, so he’ll be out to win stages. Jurgen Roelandts is in good shape too.
PEZ: And the team goal?
Charly: To get Cadel as high on the GC as we can and for Philippe to get stage wins.
We’ll be talking to Charly again as the race progresses; meanwhile where’s Marc Sergeant’s email address so I can have a word with him about Charly’s programme?