Bernhard Eisel, 34, is an elite cyclist for Team Sky. As a domestique, it is his job to put ego aside and protect teammates like Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome, allowing them to triumph.
My role is to protect the leader. Keep him out of trouble, out of the wind. You don’t want him to end up at the back of the peloton,
so you try to keep him at the front and shelter him from the wind.
I’m an all rounder, although I’m definitely more for the flats than for the mountains. Which means that, although I’d be considered normal for most people, in my sport they call me ‘fat’.
When you have a leader, you want four guys to ride around him. He’ll rely on a different guy for each part of the race. For me, that’s usually the start of the stage. It’s me keeping him at the front.
Do I like being a domestique? I’m actually better at doing my job for somebody else than doing it for my own sake.
Mark Cavendish is a proper leader. A good leader will always appreciate the work you do for them.
Normal people think we’re mad. Travelling between 250 and 300 days a year, you don’t go to weddings, or to parties, or clubbing.
Being a domestique is so tactical. There’s a hundred small things the domestique has to go through, to think about. You check the wind, you check who’s leading so you know who’s going to attack, you talk to your teammates to see how they’re doing.
The worst crash I had was on the Tour de France in 2012. We had to protect Bradley [Wiggins] because he had the yellow jersey. But it’s also my job to deliver Mark Cavendish, the sprinter, to the end of the race. Somehow we ended up in a massive pile-up. We went down at about 70kph. It was brutal.
This is my job. Has it ever occurred to me to just say “fuck it” and push ahead and win the race for myself? No, never.
At some points you have to just realise that there are people out there who are better than you. I’m just trying
to be the best and most loyal domestique that you can find.