Victoria Pendleton

Victoria Pendleton spent several years as the leading name in women's track cycling, becoming Britain's best. It wasn't easy along the way, though.


Victoria Pendleton, born on 24 September 1980, achieved remarkable things in a competitive environment she had little time for. By the end of her career, she had become Britain's best-ever sprint cyclist, tearing apart world records and winning gold medals, while at the same time putting herself through an emotional shredder that ruined her enjoyment of the sport.

Born in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, to Max Pendleton and Pauline M Viney, her talent on two wheels immediately came to the fore. Max was a cyclist - indeed, the British national grass-track cycling champion - and encouraged his daughter onto bicycles from an early age. Speaking about her early life, Pendleton says that she started cycling at the same time as being able to walk, unaware of what she would achieve in the years to come.

From the age of six-years-old, she would join her family on youth hostelling holidays that would include cycling. While discussing why she had a fear of failure later in her career, Pendleton spoke of the days where her father would cycle away from her - something which, on the other hand, is likely to have helped with her sprint qualities. At the age of nine-years-old, she started to take it more seriously. Summer holidays often saw a young Victoria cycling on grass racing against her twin brother, before her talents started to shine through four years later.

Marshal Thomas, who was the assistant national track coach of Great Britain, expressed his interest in bringing Pendleton into his squad, but she was more interested in completing her studies, which she did, later earning a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was at this point that Pendleton started to take track cycling very seriously, turning to full-time training. She was victorious at the British National Track Championships while still a student in 2001, taking home three silver medals and a bronze and from here she started to grow into the world's best.

The 2002 Commonwealth Games - her first - resulted in a fourth-place finish in the sprint, with the same position being secured in both the 2003 and 2004 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Stuttgart and Melbourne respectively. Her first taste of major success came in the 2004 World Cup event in Manchester, where she finished first.

 


At this point, she was already getting advice from the best sources under the guidance of seven-time French world champion Frederic Magne. He helped her into the final stage ahead of her journey to becoming one of the world's leading names as she competed for Great Britain in the 2004 Athens Olympics. At just 23-years-old, she came sixth in the time trial event and in ninth place for the 200m sprint.

Far from being a difficult moment in her career, it actually launched her into better things. The 2005 UCI Track Cycling World Championships were a watershed moment in British cycling as she became the first woman from those shores to win a cycling gold in four decades. The Commonwealth Games a year later were again a success as Pendleton picked up a gold medal in the sprint and silver in the 500 metre time trial. This led to an excellent 2007 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, where gold in the women's sprint, the team sprint and the women's Keirin rounded off an excellent year. Her year was made complete after being named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and Sports Journalists' Association of Great Britain's sportswoman of the year.

A further two gold medals at the 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in the individual sprint, team sprint and silver in the Keirin preceded a gold medal in the individual sprint at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Two other significant parts of her life occurred during this year: the start of her association with Sky Track Cycling, which would lead to huge success for many British cyclists, and meeting fiance Scott Gardner for the first time. Gardener had been part of her backroom staff in 2008, something that caused huge divisions in the team. While differences could not be put to one side immediately - Gardener was forced to leave the team - he was brought back in for Pendleton's last professional tournament, the London 2012 Olympics.


Before then, Pendleton managed to win gold again at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Pruszkow, along with a silver and bronze medal in the 2011 event. Also in this year, the Brit won the team sprint and Keirin titles at the European Track Championships, as well as the team sprint in the British Championships.

However, the emotional strain was still showing each time she reached the circuit, saying afterwards that the fear of failure made the build up to every race a mental battle. This meant 2012 was to be her final year on track, with her finale coming in the 2012 Games. First, she secured victory in the sprint race of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, defeating long-time rival Anna Meares along the way.

And this set her up nicely for her swansong in front of her home crowd. A world record, in the team sprint with Jessica Varnish, resulted in nothing as the pair were relegated in the semi-final for too quick a change over. But this did not stop Pendleton, who secured gold in the Keirin before finishing second to Meares in the individual sprint. The manner of the defeat was controversial, with Pendleton being relegated in the first run. Indeed, father Max said that he felt "tinged with bitterness" as his daughter bowed out of professional track cycling.

Yet she has still gone down as Britain's greatest-ever female track cyclist and Olympian two gold medals across the Games she competed in, along with several world titles.

Now to a different part of her career, she released an autobiography 'Between the Lines' and took to the television ballroom of 'Strictly Come Dancing'.