Is Victoria Pendleton holding all the aces ahead of London 2012?

10:22 26 August 2011

Victoria Pendleton

Victoria Pendleton

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VICTORIA Pendleton would make a mean poker player – as her world and Commonwealth titles slip away she’s either bluffing her way to London 2012 or holding all the aces.

Pendleton claimed one silver and one bronze from spring’s World Championships in the Netherlands – not bad going by most people’s standards but such is her pedigree, it’s considered further evidence that British Cycling’s dominance is dwindling.

Australia’s Anna Meares is the new golden girl in town and currently holds the three world titles in events that not so long ago Pendleton was a supposed shoo-in for London 2012 gold.

Pressure has got the better of Pendleton before – most notably at the Athens 2004 Olympics and that will be intensified manifold when the Olympic torch lights up London.

Second place would not be considered much of a silver lining for Queen Victoria’s faithful but while she readily admits her love for eyeliner and hair straighteners Pendleton is made of stern stuff.

In Beijing, she had to sit and twiddle her thumbs (or straighten her hair) while Sir Chris Hoy et al swept the boards and she only had one shot, the individual sprint, at gold – one she grabbed with both hands.

So when Pendleton insists she’s not in the slightest bit bothered that her 2011 form would not cut the mustard next year is her flush royal or busted?

“I’m not worried,” says Pendleton. “I’m concentrating on my strength development and getting my basics right this year in order to be in the best condition for London next year.

“You almost have to take steps back to take steps forward and I believe everything’s on track.

“If I sacrifice the World Championships this year and next to be ready for the Olympics, then so be it. As for losing, you’d be surprised how unbothered I am. I like winning but don’t get a great intrinsic sense of reward for being the best in the world.

“The goal I’m looking for is an Olympic medal. None of this seems to matter in comparison.

“That’s what I’m aiming for and that’s what I’m dedicating my whole life towards.

“I don’t feel too despondent because I know I’m not in the best form of my life. I know when the training and preparation is right it will come together.”

As the UCI strive for gender equality, Pendleton will have three shots at gold – she will defend her individual sprint title, contest the keirin and most probably join forces with Jess Varnish in the team sprint.

In another bolt from the blue, Pendleton readily concedes that she hates the heat of competition and if it wasn’t for London 2012 the lycra would already be gathering dust – but you’d be fool to bet against her hitting the jackpot next summer.

“I come third at the World Cup, it’s a disaster and the Olympics? Obviously it will be a hundred times worse,” she added.

“If it hadn’t been in London, I would have retired already.

“If I didn’t win one gold medal, I’d be upset but I wouldn’t fall apart.

“I can only do the very best I can.”

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