Published: 6 July 2012
Interview: Luke Webber
Words and Video: Simon Powers
With the Olympic Games drawing ever closer, we recently took the opportunity to talk to British Cycling’s Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, about Victoria Pendleton and her team sprint partner, Jess Varnish.
Speaking of the Games, Dave said, “It’s likely to be Vicky’s last competitive outing which is a real end of an era. She has flown the flag fantastically. She’s been a credit obviously to herself but what she’s done for British cycling really is amazing.”
He went on to add: “It’ll be exciting to go to the Games for Vicky, she’s in great form and she’s building all the time. But there will also be a twinge of sadness, I must admit, because if it is her last competitive outing it will be a sad moment I think. Hopefully she can end it on a high – I’m sure she can – she’s an unbelievable competitor, unbelievable.”
Victoria’s signature event, the match sprint is, of course, highly unpredictable. Testing not only the physical capability of its contenders, it also examines their mental strength and guile. At various points in her career, Vicky has found herself the underdog, written off by many commentators only to come back stronger and more focussed than ever before. This was the scenario at the recent world championships in Melbourne, especially in her sprint semi-final clash with the apparently unbeatable Anna Meares of Australia. Vicky picked herself off the track after a frightening collision in her first heat with Meares to eliminate the Australian and progress to the final, where she duly won gold.
Dave Brailsford’s insight into Victoria’s mindset and dedication is illuminating: “When everybody else has written her off, when the chips are down and her back is against the wall, she comes out and that’s when she’s at her most dangerous. She’s trained phenomenally hard over the last period building up to the Games and she’s stuck to a plan. She hasn’t been put off by maybe a dip in performance in order to get to her training right and competing when fatigued, which is never easy. Athletes don’t like doing that, but she’s stuck to the plan and it really seems to be paying dividends and I hope she goes out with a bang because she really deserves it.”
We also asked Dave about the emerging talent of Jess Varnish. Over the last couple of years, Jess has made the opening lap position in the GB Team’s Team Sprint line-up her own. She emphasised her talent with a strong ride at the world cup in London back in February, when she and Victoria Pendleton recorded a new world record on the way to gold.
That record was subsequently broken at the World Championships by both the Australians and then the Germans, but Dave remains confident that the GB duo can deliver in London: “Jess has done fantastically well, she deserves a lot of credit but they’re both at different ends of the spectrum as it were. Vicky is coming to the end of her career and Jess is just starting off in hers. She really has moved on again and she’s been working very hard and they make a great team and I think they bounce off one another. I think when they won the world cup in London and broke the world record, at the time it was a real morale booster for both of them. That gave them real belief that they could go on and win in London and I know they’re doing everything that they can. It’s fantastic to be competitive in two events.”