When Victoria Pendleton stormed to victory in the team sprint, with her partner Jess Varnish, during last week’s National Track Championships, she was effectively saying goodbye to an event and venue she has graced for a decade. Many expect the pair to compete together in the team sprint at next year’s home Olympics, but the signs are that London 2012 will be Victoria’s final bow as a sprinter, at least.
Pendleton won the team sprint with Jess Varnish
For a rider who has supported the National Championships so well over the years, it was a surprise to see her competing in just one event last week. However, with the run in to London 2012 effectively underway and with the start of the 2011-12 winter track season, Pendleton admitted she had been forced to look at the bigger picture. As a result, although taking the opportunity to ride in the team sprint, she spent the rest of the week focusing on her training ahead of the European Track Championships in late October.
“I felt it was important prior to the Euros to get a solid strength week in, so that’s what I’ve done - I’ve been in the gym and I’ve had a good week, so I kind of had to look ahead,” she said.
Over her career Pendleton has won some 30 nationals titles on the track, including grass-track events and a memorable win in the Scratch Race, and she has an impressive collection of medals: “I weighed the bag and it’s about 5 kilos worth of nationals, so yeah, it’s a reinforced shopping bag full!”
And it’s perhaps to events like the scratch race that Victoria will turn if she makes a return to racing after the Olympics: “This probably will be my last [National Championships], definitely as a sprinter, I’m definitely going to have some time off, the only thing that really appeals to me is doing bunch races”
But for now, her focus is firmly on the job in hand. In the coming months she will only be competing a further three times before the Olympics: at the European Championships in the Netherlands; the UCI Track World Cup in London; and the World Track Championships in Melbourne. She has opted out of going to Kazakhstan with the GB Team for the World Cup event in November due to the effects of the travelling.
“Basically I want to start something specifically within my training, I don’t want to have too much destruction in terms of travel, I just want to make it as similar to the year before Beijing as I can, because I didn’t travel too much that year and I think it really served me well.”
But, despite all the physical preparation Victoria faces in the coming months, it is the mental side of being a top athlete which probably presents the toughest challenge: it goes without saying that an athlete of Pendleton’s calibre will experience significant pressure whilst representing GB at a home Olympics. After taking gold in the women’s sprint in Beijing 2008, the expectations for Pendleton are undoubtedly high, but it’s a situation she understands.
“The pressure’s going to continuously build now until the Olympics and I’ve already got a taste of what it’s going to be like, it’s just starting to get a bit more intense, and it’s going to [increase] steadily and slowly towards the competition.”