'Shocked and saddened': Australian cycling rocked by coach's death

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Heiko Salzwedel, pictured here with the Australian cycling team.
The cycling world is mourning the death of Heiko Salzwedel. Image: Twitter

The world of professional cycling has been rocked by the tragic death of coaching legend Heiko Salzwedel, who had a massive impact in Australia.

The 64-year-old from Germany died in a Berlin hospital after a short illness.

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Salzwedel came to Australia from East Germany in the early 1990s and was the driving force behind the creation of a professional road team that would be crucial to the careers of riders such as Robbie McEwen.

Australian cycling greats such as Pat Jonker and Kathy Watt have paid tribute to the coaching legend.

Jonker, who finished 12th at the 1996 Tour de France, said Salzwedel created a pathway for himself and many other riders.

Watt, the 1992 Olympic road race gold medallist, said the German was a major backer of women's road cycling.

Heiko Salzwedel, pictured here with the Danish team at the cycling world championships.
Heiko Salzwedel with the Danish team at the cycling world championships. (Photo by Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images)

"He was a person with great strength of character and good humour who fully supported the athletes he worked with," Watt said.

Salzwedel was also a maverick figure and he had a falling out with the Australian cycling federation in the late '90s.

He returned to Europe and worked with the British, Danish and Russian national programs.

Tributes have been flooding in for Salzwedel from around the world.

Commentary legend Phil Liggett tweeted: "So shocked and saddened this morning on hearing of the passing of the legendary German coach, Heiko Salzwedel. 

"We met in 1990 and then watched him developed champion after champion across the World. The quiet man who got results. RIP my friend."

Australian cycling calendar rocked by race cancellations

Meanwhile, Australian cycling's upcoming summer calendar has taken another hit, with the Herald Sun Tour cancelled on Friday.

The Herald Sun Tour confirmation comes a day after the Santos Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race put their events on hold because of COVID-19.

Like those two events, it will be the second year in a row that the Herald Sun Tour has had to cancel.

The men's and women's Herald Sun Tour were due to be raced in February.

Heiko Salzwedel and Jonathan Dibben, pictured here at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2016.
Heiko Salzwedel and Jonathan Dibben at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2016. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Health and safety requirements and strict international border restrictions forced the hand of the Victorian event, Australian cycling's oldest stage race.

"The unpredictability that COVID-19 brings to our event presents too many challenges for us to proceed next year," Herald Sun Tour chairman Tom Salom said.

"In particular, the quarantine restrictions that come with COVID made it very difficult to attract the best international riders."

AusCycling confirmed on Thursday that the road nationals in Ballarat will go ahead as planned, from January 12-16.

with AAP

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