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Cycling world pays tribute to Heiko Salzwedel after former British Cycling coach dies

Heiko Salzwedel and Bradley Wiggins in 2015
Heiko Salzwedel and Bradley Wiggins in 2015 (Image credit: Getty Images)

The cycling world has reacted with shock and sadness to the news that well-respected coach Heiko Salzwedel has died at the age of 64. Reports in Germany have confirmed that Salzwedel died in a Berlin hospital on Wednesday.

The German coach was an instrumental figure within the sport and worked with generations of riders including Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, and a host of Australian riders.

Salzwedel was a coach at several national federations including Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, and Russia but he was perhaps best known for his track role at British Cycling, with the former East-German having three stints at the organisation during their golden age of success on the track.

He started at British Cycling in 2002 but left two years later before returning in 2008 and remaining in Manchester until after the London Olympic Games in 2012. A third term began in 2014 and ran until around late 2017 and during that period he coached the men’s team, including Wiggins, to gold in the team pursuit at the Rio Games. He went on to play an important role in Wiggins' successful 2015 attempt on the UCI World Hour Record.

Several former riders took to social media on Thursday to share their messages of condolences and pay their respects.

"Our legendary coach passed away last night. Heiko created a pathway for myself and many others leading us to the Olympic Games and Tour de France. Our many memories training in East Germany Cottbus will stay with us forever. Our sincere condolences to his family," wrote former Australian rider Pat Jonker.

Fellow Australian Kathy Watt shared her memories, too. She worked with Salzwedel during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, where she won a gold and silver medal.

"Very sad to hear that a long-time friend Heiko passed away. Heiko helped me on the Track at Barcelona & helped me win Silver (even though I was prevented from training for this event!)," she wrote.

"After Barcelona Heiko lead the National & AIS Road program out of AIS Canberra & continued to help me & many other cyclists with his wealth of knowledge in cycling. After winning gold in the Road Race in Barcelona Olympics Ros Kelly organised funding so the Women's Road Program could be full time and female cyclists receive support to perform at an international level. Andrew Logan was appointed Women's Road cycling coach & worked in with Heiko designing training and racing plans for Female cyclists providing us with the support we needed to compete against the best in the World. Heiko became a great friend, intelligent coach & we shared many great times together at the AIS and on training camps & competitions both within Australia & around the World.

"He was a person with great strength of character & good humour who fully supported the athletes he worked with. My condolences to his family. He will be missed by many people in Australia (not just in the cycling community) & worldwide. Rest in Peace Heiko."

Owain Doull, a team pursuit Olympic champion in 2016, said he was "heartbroken" by the news, explaining that Salzwedel was "one of the first coaches who believed in my potential and for this I will always be grateful". 

Meanwhile, former track sprinter Callum Skinner, who has been highly critical of British Cycling, paid his own tribute. "I loved this guy. A maverick who didn’t always fit with BC  box culture (in a good way). Embodied one of my favourite quotes “never do a job you aren’t prepared to loose”. The most hired and fired man at BC (x3). Legend, RIP."

Since 2018, Salzwedel had worked at the Brandenburg Cycling Association. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

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 Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.