Bradley Wiggins has said that he would not have returned to the Great Britain team pursuit squad had it not been for the appointment of Heiko Salzwedel as British Cycling’s endurance coach in late 2014.
Wiggins had worked with Salzwedel during each of the German’s previous two stints with British Cycling, and Salzwedel was also part of the team that prepared Wiggins for his successful attempt on the UCI Hour Record last June.
"It came down to two guys," Wiggins told The Telegraph. "And if it had gone the other way I probably wouldn't have come back to team pursuit."
Salzwedel was hired by technical director Shane Sutton as a response to Great Britain’s low-key showing at the World Championships in Cali in 2014. The British quartet took silver at the Worlds in Paris last year and with Wiggins back on board, they will target gold at the Worlds in London this week. Wiggins compared his influence to that of Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal.
"Heiko is like Louis van Gaal or one of those other experienced European managers. He has his philosophy and he sticks to it. 'We are doing it this way'. The pressing game or whatever," Wiggins said. "Not everyone agrees with him but it seems to work. Sure enough, he turned it around in a couple of months. After the eighth place in Cali, GB were back to second in Paris."
On leaving Team Sky midway through last season, Wiggins returned to the track with the ambition of winning the fifth Olympic gold medal of his career in the team pursuit at the 2016 Games in Rio in August. With that end goal in mind, he said that triumph in London this week – particularly without the services of Ed Clancy – was not a pre-requisite.
"I don't think it's necessarily about winning. The way we've treated it is that since we lost Ed, who is probably the one guy in this team who is irreplaceable, it's just about doing the best we can," Wiggins said.
"And so far it has served us well. We won the Euros [in October – ed.] We didn't win [the World Cup event] in Cali but we were getting it together by the end of the World Cup series. If we take that mentality into London, and we win, then great. But if we don't, it's not the end of the world. What matters is Rio."
Wiggins is facing into the fifth Olympic Games of his career and his fourth as part of the British track set-up, having made his debut as a bronze medallist in the team pursuit in Sydney in 2000. He said he noticed a change in atmosphere in the British camp as the countdown to Rio begins in earnest.
"This time last year I found it quite difficult. Everyone was arguing in there. But then you get into Olympic year and everything just seems to click," he told The Telegraph. "You just feel it's about performance now."