Tuesday, August 3, 2021
HomeInterviewsHeiko Salzwedel - "the Goal is to Break 3'50" in London"

Heiko Salzwedel – “the Goal is to Break 3’50” in London”

-

Heiko Salzwedel

‘The goal for the Russian team is to break the 3:50 barrier in the London Olympics.’

The words of Heiko Salzwedel — over the last few years it’s looked as if the 2012 Olympic team pursuit final would be a straight shoot out between GB and Australia.

But when German, Salzwedel decided to leave his Manchester office at British Cycling and take a plane to Moscow, those ‘in the know’ realised that another horse would be coming under starter’s orders.

And with the decision to chop the Individual Pursuit, Points Race and Madison from the Olympic cycling programme, the Team Pursuit becomes more than ever the ‘Blue Ribbon’ event on the boards.

As well as the GB Federation, Salzwedel has worked with the German, Australian and Danish teams — all with fine team pursuit records over the last decade.

In fact, the word was that GB recruited the German from the Danish squad because the men in red and white were creeping far too close for comfort to the GB team.

Salzwedel took time to talk to VeloVeritas: from his parents’ house in Berlin about what some would argue is the most beautiful event in cycling.

Heiko Salzwedel
Heiko looks after his charges during a training session in Mallorca. (Image courtesy of Viatcheslav Ekimov)

Thank you for speaking to us, Heiko — your squad did 3:56 to win the Astana World Cup, that’s a great ride.

“It’s confirmation that we’re on target; they rode 3:56 in the Russian championships in August so Astana proved that it wasn’t an accident!”

Going sub four minutes must cross a huge psychological bridge for the riders?

“When you do my job you get a good feel for what time a team is capable of in competition and I had it in my mind that they could achieve 3:56.

“Before the Russian champs I said, ‘we can do 3:56’ but the guys said; ‘no, no we can’t do that!’

“They were freaked out by the notion, so I said; ‘OK, we’ll schedule 3:59’ so as not to pressurise them — we did a 59 in qualifying, 58 in the semis and 56 in the final.

“We’re working towards 3:50 — that’s the magic number.”

Heiko Salzwedel
The team are on target to be a serious contender at the Olympics. (Image:©Heiko Salzwedel)

And you started the year with a win in the Beijing World Cup.

“We don’t ride in many World Cups with the top guys but when we do, we ride to win.

“When we’ve ridden with our best team, the lowest we’ve finished in a World Cup is second.”

The rides in Manchester World Cup (10th) and Cali (15th) are to ‘blood’ young riders, then?

“Those teams were more or less our 2016 group, we were trying out new techniques and I wasn’t too concerned about the results.

“They had certain goals to achieve; a good start and a good first two kilometres — they achieved that but exploded at three kilometres, but that didn’t really matter.”

Worlds silver — were you happy with that?

“Yes, maybe we dreamed we could win but we were happy to come away with silver — to reach the main final and qualify second in front of GB (third) was a good result for us.

“We were very happy with silver.”

Heiko Salzwedel
The Russian lads take Silver in Apeldoorn: Ivan Kovaliev, Evgeny Kovalev, Alexey Markov and Alexander Serov. (Image:©Heiko Salzwedel)

And you won the European U23 gold.

“That was a regional team from Saint Petersburg — it just goes to show the great depth there is in Russian cycling.

“I wasn’t directly involved in that performance, they were trained by one of my coaches — Nikolai Kuznetsov who was in the 1996 Russian squad which took Olympic team pursuit silver in Atlanta.”

‘Only’ silver in the World Junior Championship in Moscow — a disappointment on the home track?

Heiko Salzwedel
On the stopwatch, on the case.

“Not disappointed, no — on the contrary we were very pleased with the result.

“Since the breakup of the Soviet Union the structure of cycling in Russia hasn’t been unified — now we’re trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle back to together and get a structure.

“The ride by the junior team wasn’t expected and was a very pleasing result — it shows we have our foot in the door.”

New Zealand won in Cali.

“They’re serious opposition and should never be discounted — they have a good sports science programme and could spring a surprise in London.”

And the Danes have stepped back up to the mark — silver in the Europeans.

“When I left they carried on with my former assistant but it didn’t work out for them — now they have Casper Jorgensen as coach.

“Casper was in the team when we won the Olympics team pursuit silver in Beijing and the Worlds the following year.

“Basically, he’s started using my methods again — they’re another serious contender.

“We were in the bronze medal position in that competition but I was happy with that — we rode with two of our Worlds riders and two new guys so we weren’t disappointed.

“The timing of the Euros was awkward — the World Cup in Astana was always our main focus.”

Heiko Salzwedel
Heiko knows the Danes well – here with Casper Jørgensen, Michael Mørkøv, Jens-Erik Madsen and Alex Rasmussen. (Image:©Heiko Salzwedel)

There was a big article in the English ‘Guardian’ newspaper that the GB team are training high intensity ‘boot camp’ style in December.

“High intensity is normal, not all the time, but you have to have it in the mix.

“The new GreenEdge team will have Australian team pursuit riders in it and they’re aware that they’ll need to include high intensity work — all of the nations know what they’re doing.”

Are GB and Australia still the main opposition?

“There are five teams in the hunt; GB, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Russia — we view GB and Australia as our main rivals, but after Astana we’re confident that we’re on a level with them.

“That said both New Zealand and Denmark could spring a surprise.”

The London World Cup in February must be important for getting to know the track?

“We want to be there with our best team, the date juggling with the Chinese round of the World Cup has made things awkward but we intend to be good in Beijing and peaking for London.”

Heiko Salzwedel
The Russian cycling federation’s president, Igor Makarov, has set Salzwedel the target of making Russia the world’s foremost cycling nation by the time of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. To back this up, unprecedented funding is being poured into the programme. (Image:©CyclingWorld.dk)

Will you ride your ‘A’ team at the Worlds?

“Yes, the Olympics are the main goal but we want to do a ride in the Worlds.

“A team can achieve two major peaks in the year — the Worlds and Olympics; for the World Cups you target to achieve ‘mini peaks.’

“After the Worlds we’ll move off the track, do road work — the workload doesn’t decrease but everything is then geared to build up to an August peak for the Olympics.”

What’s your take on the regulation that a nation’s omnium rider must come from the pool of five team pursuit riders?

“It’s complete bullshit!

“We’ve discussed this in Russia and decided that we’ll sacrifice the omnium — our omnium rider will be our team pursuit fifth man.

“There will be no special preparation for the omnium — it’s the highlight of a rider’s life to ride the Olympics and he should be allowed to prepare properly for his event, not compromise by trying to prepare for two.

“We’ve decided that we’ll do one event properly rather than two in a half hearted fashion — as far as the endurance events go, all of our energies will go in to the team pursuit.

“It’s back to the Olympic committee trying to reduce the number of competitors — we used to have Hein Verbruggen fighting our corner at Olympic level but he’s no longer involved.”

Heiko Salzwedel
The Russians aren’t tied to anyone bike manufacturer. (Image:©LifeStyle Cycling)

Will the team still be on Cervelos for London?

“We’ll continue with Cervelo but there are other options open to us — our goal is to have the best possible bikes for London.

“We’re loyal to Cervelo and thankful for the help we’ve received from them — but we must consider every option, we’re constantly evaluating and not bonded to any one manufacturer.

“At the moment we believe that Cervelo offer the best option — but there are other manufacturers out there with huge resources and they want to work with Russia.

“GB and Australia are committed to working with their own small specialist builders but when you look at the resources that the likes of BMC and Giant have, you can see that it’s good for us to have the flexibility to go with the best manufacturer and not be tied to any builder.”

Heiko Salzwedel
Heiko won’t ask the riders to do something he wouldn’t do himself! (Image:©LifeStyle Cycling)

What’s the fastest team pursuit rubber — Continental or Dugast?

“They’re both good tyres but there are other manufacturers offering fast product — Vittoria for example.

“Again, we have the privilege of not being tied to any one manufacturer because of sponsorship arrangements — we’ll select the best tyre that’s available.”

And 3:50 is the mark?

“Yes!

“That’s our target, that’s what we’re training for — and as the speeds get faster and faster the training structure goes more and more towards that of the pure sprinters.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Neah Evans – European Team Pursuit Champion

If you check the palmares websites, Neah Evans' name first pops up in 2015 – just four years later and she’s performing at world level in ladies track cycling as part of the GB ladies team pursuit squad; with her most recent successes coming in the European Team Pursuit Championships and Glasgow World Cup where her squad took gold on both occasions.

Eddie Alexander – 4th in the Seoul Olympic Sprint; “I wish I knew then, what I know now”

Whilst Seoul in 1988 was no ‘Beijing Gold Rush’ the performances of the GB riders opened eyes and proved that Olympic medals weren’t just a pipe dream. A young Englishman called Colin Sturgess narrowly missed bronze in the pursuit and a Highlander called Eddie Alexander took fourth in the sprint.

Toby Watson – Today is the Big Day

Today is the big day. The culmination of the road cycling programme for the London Olympics. I can’t believe we’re already here!

Bryan Steel – One of the Original World Class GB Team Pursuiters

We’d expected to be able to hang this interview on another English team pursuit gold in Glasgow – but not so. And for the first time since 2009 the GB team failed to make the podium in the track Worlds back in the spring – probably no big deal in the overall scheme of things where The Olympics are what really count to BC these days. How times change. The GB team pursuit Renaissance began in 2000 in Manchester, and Bryan Steel was an important part.

The Colin Sturgess Story – Part One

Colin Sturgess exploded on to the UK cycling scene in the 80's - within a couple of seasons he was world professional pursuit champion. But his enormous potential was never full realised.
00:53:47

‘The Pursuit’: Team KGF Documentary, the amateurs who shook the world

Filmmaker James Poole made the Team KGF documentary after following the team (now re-launched as Team HUUB Wattbike) for a year on their journey from shock national champions through to World Cup and World Championship success, to create a film which presents the amateur riders' debut season which shook up the track cycling world as they self-funded and out-thought their way to the top.

At Random

Giro d’Italia 2011, Stage 5: Piombino – Orvieto 191km

We slept like logs last night - maybe it was the fact that we were emotionally drained or maybe it was the grappa we had for a nightcap? We stayed in Cecina, on the Ligurian Sea, roughly half way between the Stage 4 finish in Ligorno and the stage 5 start today in Piombino. The season hasn't started yet on the Ligurian, it kicks off in June; over on the east coast the Adriatic season has already begun and they'll be out there on their sun loungers as I write this.

World Road Championships 2006 – Day 4: Espoirs Road Race – Gerald Ciolek

I was up before the bells, showered, washing done and on the street. Even at 08. 00 it's buzzing.The first rider I saw was from Brazil, then the Russian team - looking good in their Itera kit on white carbon Looks. 177 riders from all over the globe; 47 nations. I just saw the Mexicans sign-on, but Gerald Ciolek is the favourite...

The Namen Round of the GVA Series – 13th!

Hey folks, first round of the GVA series - it's one of the big three (World Cup, Superprestige and GVA) top 20's at these races were my aim for the year, I got 13th at Namen.

Rotterdam Six Day 2011 – Day Five, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

At the Rotterdam Six Day 2011 and I'm sitting next to this chap, drinking my coffee, eating my Vacansoleil cookie and thinking; 'I should know who he is, he's the double of Ezequiel Mosquera.' Then the penny dropped; it was Old Zeke, in person, my - now tarnished - hero from the Vuelta.

Shaun Wallace – Part One; Worlds Pursuiter in the 90’s

Shaun Wallace was a multiple British champion, twice Worlds silver medallist and three times a Commonwealth Games silver medallist as well as a world record holder on two occasions. High times we caught up with the man; he was at home in San Diego where he settled 22 years ago to ‘escape the winters.’

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Day Two

I’d forgotten the raw horror of a Frank Zander gig; ‘If I Had a Hammer’ was blasting out at around 11:00 pm and it occurred to me that if you’re a bad musician then Germany and the Berlin Six Day 2012 is the place to be.