Former Australian Olympic track star dies aged 39

Stephen Wooldridge won gold for Australia in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was also a four-time world champion in the discipline and the 2002 Commonwealth Games champion.

Stephen Wooldridge was one of the legends of Australian cycling.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Australia's track cycling fraternity was on Tuesday mourning the sudden death of former Olympic and world champion Stephen Wooldridge, aged just 39.

The former star team pursuiter, from New South Wales state, won gold for Australia in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was also a four-time world champion in the discipline and the 2002 Commonwealth Games champion.

"Stephen was an exceptional cyclist and Olympic Champion who will forever be remembered," said Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates in a statement on Tuesday.

"He was always very giving of his time to the Olympic movement, helping out with fundraising efforts whenever he could for the Australian Olympic Team over the years."

Cycling NSW said it was "deeply saddened" by the news, adding: "Stephen was an inspirational figure in track cycling, particularly in his home state of NSW."

There were no further details about when and how Wooldridge died.

One of the cyclist's good friends and mentors, Phil Bates, penned an emotional tribute to the Olympic champion after receiving the news.

"His infectious smile, gentleman attitude on and off the bike made him a very special person," Bates wrote in a letter published on the website of RIDE Cycling Review magazine.

"We are better for knowing him and worse off for losing him."

Australian track cycling legend Anna Meares wrote on Twitter that she was "terribly sad" to hear of Wooldridge's death.

Bates said Wooldridge had left behind a son and daughter and other family members.