Two months before the Russian squad will compete for Olympic glory in the London velodrome, the preparation under Heiko Salzwedel’s supervision is under way.
Small set-backs like RusVelo’s Olympic pursuit team’s non-participation in the London World Cup due to Visa problems or Ivan Kovalev’s crash ahead of the Worlds could not overshadow the exceptional development the squad has made within the last
months. Since Salzwedel took over the Russian Tack Cycling team, Russia started winning World Cups again, not only in the team pursuit, the flagship and pride of the program. The Highlight was the Beijing World Cup, where Russian riders won 5 World Cup Gold medals, 4 of them in Olympic events.
“The RusVelo team started in 2 out of 4 World Cups, and the pursuit team took Gold in Beijing, Gold in Astana and finished 4th at the Worlds! Additionally, Evgenia
Romanyuta captured wins in 2 World Cups, Ekaterina Gnidenko won Silver in the
Keirin and Anastasia Chulkova won Gold at the pointsrace in Melbourne,” Salzwedel outlines the successes of the previous months. “It’s all about confidence. Over the last 20 or so years, Russia’s track cycling dominance of the 80’s declined dramatically. The riders are in vain. The formation of the RusVelo track team in May 2011 and the start of the RusVelo Pro-Continental road team in January 2012, incorporating now the track program, gave the riders a big boost in confidence and a clear signal to the world: Something serious is going on here! A Pro-Continental team focusing on the team pursuit and team time trials on the road? That was unheard of before! My aim is to make this team even better and to develop the Russian track team into the number 1 in the world cycling by 2016.”
Preparing for the biggest goal of the season, Salzwedel does not want to leave anything up to chance. The recent training camp on the track in Büttgen, Germany was a great success. “We have had a perfect environment for training sessions and team activities,” Salzwedel notes. “For the first time, we had two teams there: the U23 team and the Elite team. This created a kind of healthy rivalry in training, an element I have been missing in the past months, due to lack of riders. After both teams delivered similar times in training, we stopped talking about the first and second team, but called them the 2012 and 2016 teams respectively.”
As a result, the 2016 pursuit team won the U23 Russian national title in Saint Petersburg with the fastest ever time of an U23 team: 4:01,409. “With this time, the U23 Team would have finished 5th at this year’s World Championship,” Salzwedel outlines. This shows that also for the long-run Heiko Salzwedel has set sails into the right direction.
One of the most important experts Salzwedel has hired to develop young talent and make older riders even better is sports scientist Victor Popov. “This is a phenomenal challenge for me,” Popov states. “Working with Heiko is always an honor for me. No matter which nation he worked with, he ended up being successful. We need to come back to a system that is centered around the individual athlete. The old “Russian system” might have worked decades ago, but now we need Heiko to do his thing, and we all know it works exceptionally well. With him we can be on eye-level with the likes of Australia and Great Britain in the future. These are nations that are ahead of us currently when it comes down to training methods and science in sports. I would like to help him to achieve his goals with this program.”