Olaf Ludwig

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Olaf Ludwig (2002)

Olaf Ludwig (born April 13, 1960 in Gera , GDR ) is a former German cyclist and Olympic champion in cycling .

In the 1980s and 1990s he was one of the most successful Germans in this sport. His greatest successes in the amateur field were two overall victories at the Peace Run in 1982 and 1986 and the Olympic victory in the individual race at the 1988 Summer Olympics . As a professional, he won a total of three stages of the Tour de France as well as the sprint classification for the green jersey. In 1992 he was the overall winner of the Cycling World Cup . At the road cycling world championships in the following year he reached third place in the individual race of professionals.

After the end of his active career, he founded the company Olaf Ludwig Cycling GmbH , which led the T-Mobile team until October 31, 2006 . In addition, he took on various functions at the Association of German Cyclists , the professional team Team Telekom and the UCI World Cycling Association . Olaf Ludwig is married and has three children.

life and career

Childhood and youth

Olaf Ludwig's parents were the machinist Rolf Ludwig († 1977) and Sieglinde Ludwig. Since 1967 the family lived in the Thieschitz district of Gera, a small suburb with a rural character. Even in his childhood, Olaf Ludwig was very enthusiastic about sports - he played soccer and was a track and field athlete. According to his coaches, he had a certain talent in both sports.

In May 1972 Gera was the stage of the International Peace Tour . This event was so impressive for twelve-year-old Olaf that he started cycling with his first trainer Heinz Hiepe at SG Dynamo Gera Mitte . His talent was quickly recognized there. Just one year later, the boy was to be delegated to a club in Berlin in accordance with the GDR's sports promotion program. That would have meant sending him to boarding school. However, his parents refused, and Olaf stayed in Gera.

From 1974 he was trained by the former road driver Werner Marschner at the SG Wismut Gera , to which the racing department of the Dynamo sports club had changed, who encouraged him very much. He won a title at the races of the children and youth spartakiade in 1977. After he had taken third place in the 1976 international junior rally in Neugersdorf , he was accepted into the GDR's national junior team.

1977 was the most successful year until then for the young Olaf Ludwig. At the friendship youth competitions in Havana , he won the team time trial with Thomas Barth , Falk Boden and André Kluge . A few weeks later, the team won the gold medal at the Junior World Championships in Stockerau, Austria . In August of the same year he met his future wife, Heike Födisch, in a disco. She comes from Reichardtsdorf near Bad Köstritz . This successful year for Olaf Ludwig was overshadowed in November by the sudden death of his father Rolf.

The team was able to defend the junior world championship title in 1978 in Washington, DC with the same line-up. At the end of the same year, his girlfriend Heike announced that she was pregnant. As a result, Ludwig, who was already in the preparatory phase for his first Olympic participation, had to promise the DTSB to marry her immediately after the 1980 Olympic Games. There were two reasons for this: on the one hand, the government tried to ensure that its competitive athletes were seen as clean men and caring family fathers; on the other hand, family ties prevented athletes from using trips to western countries to escape from the GDR .

In the summer of 1979 he passed his A-levels at the children's and youth sports school in Gera - together with Thomas Barth . In addition to his cycling career, he began studying sports in Leipzig , but never practiced the profession.

Amateur career

Olaf Ludwig and his long-time trainer Werner Marschner, 1985

In 1979 he set a warning by winning the ranking for the best young driver in the GDR tour. In 1980 he took part in the International Peace Tour for the first time and caused a sensation when he won the first stage around Wroclaw and wore the yellow jersey for two stages . In Berlin he was also able to win the sixth stage - a question of prestige, since the GDR government was sitting in the stands at the finish line. Two days later he won the eighth stage in Halle and then the mountain time trial in Solenice . He was able to end his first peace run with a third place in the overall ranking.

In the same year he took part in his first Olympic Games in Moscow . In the team time trial he just won the silver medal with Hans-Joachim Hartnick , Bernd Drogan and Falk Boden , but in the individual race a few days later he was only thirty-second. Shortly after his return, Olaf and Heike Ludwig married in August 1980 after their daughter Madlen was born on July 7, 1979.

In 1981 he won the Lower Saxony Tour , then he celebrated five stage victories in the Peace Tour and finished fourth in the overall ranking. In 1982 he was finally able to celebrate his first overall victory in the Peace Drive, after losing the yellow jersey, which he won in the prologue , the next day and only recovering it in the penultimate stage. He later wrote about the consequences of this victory in his autobiography Höllenritt on the heavenly ladder :

“The triumph ride in the sea of ​​flags was quickly noisy, but the enthusiasm of the people continued. For weeks our postwoman in Thieschitz had to carry letters and cards by the kilo, after a few days all she left in exasperation was the shopping bags full of mail on our garden fence. […] It was amazing. It was then that I really became aware of the responsibility that an athlete takes on when one leads the way and is successful. Whether you like it or not: You are appropriated by everyone, observed every step of the way, made a social person and a role model. [...] And yet this surge of attention gave me a lot of strength. The resolution not to disappoint the many fans and friends back home has followed me in all my races as support and motivation around the world. "

In September 1982 he won the Tour de l'Avenir in France with the national team of the GDR . In 1983 he was the overall winner of this tour. In the same year he became a father for the second time - on October 3rd his son Steven was born. In 1983 he started at the UCI Road World Championships and was classified sixth in the amateur road race.

In 1984 he could not take part in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles because of the boycott of the socialist states . As a substitute, the so-called "International Friendship Competitions" were held on the Schleizer Dreieck . A victory in these competitions, in which 33 drivers from eleven countries took part, should be rated as an Olympic victory by the DTSB. Despite the domestic backdrop, Olaf Ludwig was only able to achieve eighth place.

In 1985 he had to forego the start of the peace drive for the first time because of a severe cold. However, a little later he became the overall winner of the Rhineland-Palatinate Tour .

4th stage of the 1987 Peace Tour in Gera: Ludwig on the left, Uwe Ampler on the right , the French
Jean-François Lafille in the middle

In 1986 he won the International Peace Tour for the second time. It began in Kiev on May 7, just two weeks after the Chernobyl accident . Because of the proximity to the Chernobyl reactor, all western countries except France and Finland canceled. According to the government's instructions, the GDR team started anyway, and Ludwig emerged from the tour as a beaming winner - a term that the newspapers should avoid this year as far as possible, according to instructions from Berlin. For his victory he was the first time athlete of the year in the GDR .

The young Uzbek Jamolidin Abduschaparov took part in the 1987 Peace Tour . In the years that followed, he became Ludwig's worst rival. Their sprint duels became legendary.

In 1988 Olaf Ludwig became Olympic champion in the road race in Seoul ahead of the two German Germans Bernd Gröne and Christian Henn . For this victory he was then honored by Erich Honecker with the Patriotic Order of Merit in gold. He was also named athlete of the year for the second time.

1989 was a disappointing year for Ludwig. After a mediocre performance in the peace run, he broke his right thumb at the World Championships in Chambéry, France and was unable to take part in the competitions. In the fall, there was also a broken wrist, which he suffered on a trip to Australia with the GDR national team. At that time he was already considering an end to his career.

Career as a professional

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989, he decided to start a new professional career that same year. Ludwig initially planned a contract with the Stuttgart team (from which the Telekom team emerged in 1991 ), but the signing of the contract on December 27th failed due to a technical breakdown - Ludwig's answering machine had not saved the message where the contract was to be signed. Therefore, on December 29th, Ludwig signed a contract with the Dutch team Panasonic Sportlife . Signing the contract meant that Olaf Ludwig and his family had to move to the Netherlands . In early 1990 the Ludwigs moved to Valkenburg . A few years later they built a house in Kornelimünster near Aachen .

His first professional race was the Ruta del Sol in February 1990, where he was able to win the first two stages. In the same year he won a stage in the Tour de France and the green jersey of the best sprinter.

In April 1992 he finished second in the legendary Paris – Roubaix road race . He had a kind of love-hate relationship with this track throughout his professional career - he finished third in this race in 1993 and fourth in 1994. The second place in 1992 meant that Ludwig took the lead in the World Cup . He was able to keep the lead until the last race of the season in October on Mallorca and was World Cup winner at the end of the season.

Shortly after his second place at Paris-Roubaix, he won the Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht and was now also celebrated as a hero in his new Dutch homeland. In May he won the Dunkirk Four Days . In July he was able to win the last stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées . At the end of 1992 he was also voted cyclist of the year in Germany ahead of second-placed Jens Heppner.

In 1993 he switched to Team Telekom , for which he won the first stage of the Tour de France on July 17 in Montpellier . On August 29, he was third behind Lance Armstrong and Miguel Indurain in the individual race at the World Championships for professionals in Oslo .

In autumn 1993 Ludwig became a father for the third time - his daughter Romina was born on October 31st.

In 1994 he won the bike race around the Henninger tower . The following year 1995 was extremely unsatisfactory for him - at Paris-Roubaix he finished 24th, at the Tour de France he retired prematurely, having only achieved 161st place in the ninth stage. Then he decided to concentrate on his third Olympic participation in 1996 at the age of 36 and then to end his career. On October 5th, 1995 he received the honorary citizenship of his hometown through the mayor of Gera Ralf Rauch .

After some bad luck in the spring of 1996 - tire damage prevented a success at the Tour of Flanders , at Drei Tage von De Panne and at Paris-Roubaix - he finished eighth in Rund um den Henninger Turm and on July 12th won the Rhineland- Palatinate tour. Then he started on July 31st for the individual race at the Olympic Games in Atlanta , but could only be sixteenth there. Olympic champion was the Swiss Pascal Richard , who - like Ludwig when he won the Olympic Games eight years earlier - was trained by Wolfram Lindner , who was now the Swiss national coach.

On October 3rd, 1996 Ludwig drove his farewell race on a circuit around Gera and won ahead of Jamolidin Abduschaparow. The finish line in the Stadium of Friendship was watched by 20,000 spectators. Then a farewell gala for Ludwig took place in the Erwin-Panndorf-Halle (which was then demolished for the BUGA) .

Then he drove in the winter of 1996/97 in the six-day races in Dortmund , Cologne , Bremen , Stuttgart , Berlin and Milan . He was able to win again in Cologne and Berlin. His final race was a farewell race for Danny Clark , Michael Hübner and Olaf Ludwig on the night of February 14th to 15th, 1997.

After retirement

Olaf Ludwig (r.) With Jens Heppner (2014)

In 1997 his autobiography Höllenritt auf der Himmelsleiter was published , edited by the sports journalist Helmut Wengel. This includes contributions by Täve Schur , Eddy Merckx and Mario Kummer . Looking back on his career, Ludwig says:

"I regret nothing. Not even my past in the GDR, to which I stand. I owe my training, my promotion and my rise to the top of the world of amateur cycling to the system. That we did not question the system in which we were carefully guarded, encouraged and also guarded - who can blame us for that in retrospect? The decisive factor for me was always being human, dealing with one another, helping one another, caring for one another. I've always tried to stay ME - whether sporty, politically or privately. "

After the end of his career, Olaf Ludwig was Vice President of the Association of German Cyclists (BDR) in 1999/2000 . In 2000 he became the press spokesman for the Telekom team (since 2003 the T-Mobile team ) and a member of the professional committee of the UCI World Cycling Association .

After the T-Mobile team was led by the dual leadership of Walter Godefroot / Olaf Ludwig in 2005 , in 2006 she transferred sole management of the team to Olaf Ludwig Cycling GmbH , a company founded by Olaf Ludwig . After the Tour de France was over in the same year, the main sponsor announced that the future collaboration with both Ludwig and Mario Kummer would be put to the test. On July 30, 2006, T-Mobile finally announced that it would end its collaboration with Ludwig on October 31 of the same year.

Since then, Ludwig has been organizing bike tourism trips together with the former peace tour organizer Jörg Strenger .

Until February 2015 Olaf Ludwig lived in Stolberg - Breinig near Aachen . He has been based in Gera again since March 2015.


Web links

Commons : Olaf Ludwig  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ German Cycling Association of the GDR (ed.): The cyclist . No. 19/1982 . Berlin 1982, p. 1 .
  2. ^ German Cycling Association of the GDR (ed.): The cyclist . No. 30/19179 . Berlin 1979, p. 3 .
  3. Rene Jacobs et al. (Ed.): Velo . Dendermonde 1984, p. 131 .
  4. Neues Deutschland , 12./13. November 1988, p. 4
  5. ^ "Results without national leagues", Sport-Bild dated December 29, 1992, p. 37
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on August 25, 2005 .