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Victoria Pendleton approaches Olympic swansong in all-time physical peak

Victoria Pendleton approaches Olympic swansong in all-time physical peak

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“I’m definitely, undoubtedly in better form than I ever have been entering a competition in my entire life. Had a PB today on the track in the 200m, which is good! Quite a considerable PB! So I am very happy with where I am right now.”

The words of Victoria Pendleton, oozing confidence just two weeks ahead of the biggest and last competition of her elite cycling career. The multiple world and Olympic champion announced her post-Games retirement earlier in the year but, at the GB holding camp in Newport, was keen to point that she fully intends to end an incredible track career on the highest of highs.

IMAGES: PENDLETON IN TRAINING ON THE LONDON VELODROME

Following a memorable battle with Australian Anna Meares in the sprint semis at the World Championships earlier in 2012, Pendleton has hit the gym hard in preparation for London, following the maxim that seems all-pervasive in the GB camp – ‘focus on the things you can control and do them to the best of your ability’. GB Cycling Team’s version of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer seems firmly engrained in Pendleton’s London 2012 armour: “Whether it will be enough – who knows? Who knows how fast everyone else is going to go? But I do feel that physically, for me, knowing my body, I think I’ve done the most I can do. I’ve asked a lot, this is what I’ve got and I’m happy.

“Happy in what I’ve achieved in the last month since the worlds - the build has continued and nearly every session I’ve gone to I’ve been able to take away something positive. Like, my average power in that session is the highest it’s ever been or something positive. So I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of months training. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Above: Track World Championships, Melbourne, 2012 - Pendleton crashes out of her semi against Anna Meares - the moment that galvanised Pendleton to pull an astonishing performance out of the bag to reclaim the world title.

As a result of hard hours in the gym and with her coaches and mentors, Pendleton, now 31, approaches London 2012 with a calmness that belies the fact that she is contesting three separate events in a brutal track campaign, the only GB rider to do so. Yet Pendleton draws confidence from her palmares and her preparation: “I think because in the past I’ve won all three world titles... ...I think I’ve got as good a chance as anybody. And the training is the same – you can’t add more days in the week – it’s the same training – it’s just your mental approach, how you hit each event – with a bit of luck of the draw when it comes to the Keirin.

“It’s going to be a bit of a tougher mental approach in some respects but in others... I went into Beijing with one event to get right – an event that if you blink you get it wrong. Everyone else had won gold, up until the last day – it was a lot of pressure. “

Listening to Pendleton talking, just a fortnight ahead of perhaps the biggest track appointment that she and the team have ever faced – a home Games, the overriding impression was of an athlete who, having announced her retirement, was unburdened by the gravity of expectation and totally focussed on the task in hand: “When I get on that start line it’s not as if I’ll say ‘I wish I’d done that’ or ‘done that differently’ – I’ve done the most I can do – I’ve been as strict on every aspect of my training as I can. This is what I’ve got. If it’s enough, great, if it’s not I’ll deal with it but I can’t offer any more.

“So it’s a really easy place to kind of be... when you know you can’t do any more and you’re going better that you’ve ever gone before in your life. In the last year of your career, you’d like to think that you’re in the best form of your life and end on a high and I am right now.”