News of the passing of Louis Passfield spread rapidly amongst many in the cycling community. He is remembered as a key figure in coaching who challenged traditional thinking and left a big impact on our sport.
Andrea Wooles knew Louis well and she wrote this piece for RIDE Media to try and summarise what Passfield meant to her and the cycling community.
– Louis Passfield, Obituary – by Andrea Wooles
13 November 2022
There’s a candle burning in my window this evening, offering warmth and welcome to a friend and colleague who passed too soon. Louis Passfield, one of the good ones, passed on Friday, and people who cared about him from around the world have been sharing their memories of him in a modern-day kind of internet Wake.
Louis was a cycling scientist, but first, he was a human. Such a kind, generous, caring and humble human, that he had an impact on everyone he worked with.
I once heard Dr Dave Martin speak about the “Jane Goodall Approach to Sport Science”, and that is what comes to mind now – Louis cared for the people he worked with, and became family with them, as Jane Goodall did.
For those of you who didn’t know Louis, I would share with you that he was soft-spoken, humble – not one of those scientists who wants to tell you how great they are and tries to sell you their book (although he wrote a great book) – and funny, my god he had a sense of humour!
He was an innovator, a myth-buster, and he questioned the foundation of what we know about training science. He wrote, and published, and taught, and mentored.
We all know that the cycling community is one big family tree, through which we’re all related, however many degrees of separation there may be between us. Louis was related to most people through either his time at British Cycling or his publications. He lived in two worlds with his work, applied science and academia, and bridged them beautifully. He adored his family.
Over the years, he worked at the West Sussex Institute of Higher Education, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Glamorgan, the University of Kent, and the University of Calgary. He published more than 60 articles, mostly on determinants of performance in cycling.
I feel that I should tell you about the people he worked with and the amazing things he did, his pivotal role in the development of high-performance cycling in Britain, but then I hesitate – because while all of that matters it doesn’t tell you who he was at his core.
He was the man who sat with my daughter at a gala dinner and made her feel like she could do amazing things with her life, who believed in her immediately in a way that she has always remembered.
He was the man who spent a month with me as I passed on five years of work at British Cycling to him, and who made me feel like I’d done something special in my time there.
He was the man who coached my husband and was able to gently tell him truths about overtraining.
These stories are just a drop in the ocean, I suspect everyone who knew him has similar stories.
This was a sudden loss, a surprising loss, and a tragic loss. Too soon, Louis, too soon. We’ll miss you and will think fondly of you as we stare at the candles in our windows.
I am better for knowing you Louis, you were one of a kind – ridiculously happy, supportive and left an lasting impact on me and the way I live my life.
Take care my friend. Safe travels.
– By Andrea Wooles
Feature image by Dr Mark Burnley (@DrMarkBurnley)