Stotfold’s Victoria Pendleton is in the lion’s den, Australia, for the World Track Championships and a lot is being made of her rivalry with Australia’s favourite queen of the track, Anna Meares.
EVENT WEBSITE: http://www.2012trackworlds.com.au/
Despite Vicky loving Australia, having an Aussie boyfriend in Scott Gardner who used to be a sports scientist with the GB Cycling Team, the British girl will no doubt be facing an intimidating atmosphere in the velodrome in Melbourne especially when she faces Anna Meares on the boards.
The British queen of the sprint since 2005 shares her Christian name with the name of the state the Worlds are being held in, Victoria and is the Beijing Olympic sprint champion and eight time world champion.
The big push for London 2012 is on and these two, Anna Meares (left) and Victoria Pendleton will be two of the stars no doubt.
In a press conference yesterday, Victoria Pendleton charmed the socks off a Melbourne media pack.
As rivalries go, the Pendleton versus Meares clash will ignite these World Titles on the opening night when the pair are expected to clash as they lead their nations in the final of the women’s Team Sprint. That rivalry will continue in the individual Sprint and Keirin and they are racing on virtually every day of the championships.
“At the end of the day, this isn’t war, this is sport” Victoria told the press conference. “I respect her (Ann Meares) achievements and I hope that she respects mine so there probably is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to be pals.”
“I feel like the media has created this thing around the both of us that we both feel kind of almost shielded from each other. Like it’s created some kind of tension and barrier and neither of us know how much is true or been created.”
“It’s quite a difficult environment to have a friendship. I don’t want to have any bitter rivalries, rivalries are good, bitter ones not so good. We have a lot in common and apparently have a lot of similar interests outside of sport as well.”
Victoria had a tough initiation into the sport at the 2002 Commonwealth Games (Manchester) where she came up against Anna’s sister Kerrie and that was quite a physical encounter with Victoria being scraped along the fence(her pedal at least!).
Determined. Victoria may not be aggressive in the same way the Australians are but she is one determined champion…
A lot has changed since then. We’ve not seen sprinting as physically aggressive as that for a while and Kerrie is no longer racing internationally. Victoria spoke about her how the rivalry started saying “Anna and I are very different riders. She is someone who likes to push the rules and I definitely don’t. But there is nothing wrong with that, it is just different styles in how we approach the same event.”
“I was really annoyed when she cut me off in the Keirin in 2006 (Bordeaux), because they don’t restart Keirin’s and your chance is gone. That really shocked me because she apologised for doing it afterwards saying ‘I am sorry I hooked you, I didn’t mean it to be dangerous‘.”
“I was like ‘I wouldn’t do it. You might do it but I wouldn’t do it.’ I wouldn’t want to be dangerous or anything like that; it’s not something that really appeals to me. I haven’t come from a background of sprinting where it is all kinds of contact.”
“We have very different backgrounds in sprint and that’s all it is really. I have heard her make some comments about how she dislikes me or how I dislike her, but I am not entirely sure where it has come from. We used to be quite good pals. I remember going out with her for a few beers in Stuttgart after the World Championships in 2003.”
“There is definitely a rivalry, we have both been very successful in the Sprint events and somebody has to win and somebody has got to lose. We are both at a very similar level and are both highly competitive. We are probably very similar in a lot of ways but somebody’s got to miss out. It’s just because our careers are at the same time and we have reached our peak at the same time so we are bound to meet each other in competition a lot.”
In London at the World Cup, it was a mixed event for Victoria, the victory in the Team Sprint was a highlight but the other events less so.”
London World Cup, and Vicky’s battle with Anna Meares was as hard and fast as ever with the Aussie coming out on top. Will it be different in Melbourne on the Aussies home boards.
Talking about how things have gone since that event in February just over a month ago, Victoria told the media “I feel 90% there. I feel like there is more to come, and as far as my training program, I planned it with wanting to reach my physical best in August. I have prepared for these (World Championships) and I am taking them very seriously, it’s a World Championship and it’s very important and is the last one I am going to do, so I want to have a good ride and a good result.”
“But, I still have a lot of processes that I wanted to go through to be at my best in time for the Games.”
A long time at the top …
“I had a really good run with the consecutive World titles. I haven’t been outside the top four since 2002 so I have really pushed hard and haven’t taken many breaks or given myself much time off over that whole racing career. There have been times when I have had to say ‘hang on a minute guys, give me a little bit of slack here’, I can’t produce these results year after year without giving myself a bit of time.”
“At the turn of the new year (2012), I could see the light at the end of a tunnel, the home straight. It feels a lot easier to put things into perspective and I feel a lot happier about what I am doing. The time is flying by and training has been going well so I couldn’t ask for anything more but I must admit that 2010/11 were really tough times for me and I was debating whether I wanted to continue or not but how could I not continue to a home Games. I felt a little bit trapped.”
Talking about her chances at her last World Track Championships, she says “I believe I am amongst the top five or six girls in the World so therefore I have as good a chance as anybody to get on the podium. I am just going to go out there and enjoy it because as I said, it is the last time I am going to do it. This will be my last memory of what I have done over the last ten years in terms of the World Championship circuit.”
Victoria (right) and Jess Varnish on the top step of the podium at the London World Cup.
“I am quite a nervous person normally but I think I have developed as a human being in terms of putting it all in perspective. I am not saying I am laid back about it, I am fiercely competitive obviously, but I just want to really enjoy it, I want to take a really positive experience away from this.”
“It would be nice to have a rainbow jersey but I have already won way more than I thought I could and I am very content with the way my career has panned out. But I don’t really like being labelled as someone who is content because I will keep fighting until the events are over.”
On where the opposition will come from in both Melbourne and London. “I’d say that at the moment in the women’s sprint, there are five or six girls who are in very close contention for those podium places and obviously the Australians have always been very strong within the women’s sprint having the like of Anna Meares and Kerrie (Meares) back in the day.”
“I don’t know how anyone else is doing; I only know where I am. I feel like I am in a better place but I am sure everyone else is too so it’s difficult to say. You expect everybody at the last World Cup (London) to be going well but you always expect that there will be some improvement between that point and the World Championships because you plan it that way.”
“I think there will be some really good times in qualifying.”
Victoria was also keen to put right a story about monsters and demons which she was said to be haunted by. “Somebody asked me (once) if I worried about things, and I said ‘I did dream last night that I was being chased and I wonder if that’s something to do with the London Olympics’ and before you know it I am plagued by nightmares and demons and 2012 monsters. That’s the way things get exaggerated over time. But I do dream that I am being chased a lot but I don’t know if that is normal on not.”
2005 and Victoria celebrates in Los Angeles after winning her first World title in the Women’s Sprint, an event she has dominated and is hoping to continue to do so right up to the end of the international career in London.
On the opportunities a home Games in London has brought her and the other riders in the GB Team, Victoria replied “there have been a lot of sponsorship opportunities and a lot of invites and I really enjoy doing those things because it is so different from our every day job which is so regimented and specific and not very glamorous. As a female athlete in sport, you would be crazy not to take those opportunities because there isn’t much to be made from riding track for a living.”
“It’s been a difficult balance but I don’t regret giving up some of my time for those kind of opportunities because they are not going to come around again.”
A lot has been made of the changes to the Olympic programme with Endurance Races being cut and the number of riders allowed in each event restricted to one nation rider per event. Victoria has shown time and time again she is the best British sprinter (and world) but is aware more talent is coming through.
“I think I’m quite lucky in that, at the moment, I have the priority for those spaces in the individual events in London so I am very very lucky about that.”
The last time these two (Anna Meares & Victoria Pendleton) met at a major competition on the Melbourne track, the winner was Victoria Pendleton (Commonwealth Games, 2006).
“If the Olympics were one year later and on a slightly different four year cycle, I would be in trouble because with the likes of Jess Varnish and Beccy James coming through, I think I would struggle to really have that privilege and have those positions first hand. They are both snapping at my heels and improving so fast that I just can’t keep up with that.”
“I really feel for the guys within the team, knowing that we had gold and silver medals at the last Olympics in the Sprint and the Keirin and somebody’s going to miss out on a position when they perhaps deserve to ride. I definitely don’t envy the guys at the moment; it’s a really tough position to be in.”
Looking back at the World Cup in London where her and Jess Varnish took on the world and won, Victoria explained “I was really pleased with the Team Sprint, it was a huge surprise. We had no idea that we had the ability to hit that time so that was really good. But the program was tough; they really did serve us a really difficult and tight program.”
“The recovery period between the Sprint was tough and I think both Anna and myself really pushed each other in the semi final and both struggled to come back off that and finish the competition off which was unfortunate for both of us but it was definitely good racing.”
“In the past, we have done the Team Sprint but it hasn’t really been a focus of our training because it wasn’t an Olympic event so was bit of a bogus event. It’s something I really enjoy, it’s nice to have a team mate and a team event having been an individual athlete for so long.”
“For me, letting myself down is one thing, but I would hate to let Jess down when she is in such great form so for me the Team Sprint is probably at the top for me.”
Anna Meares keeps Victoria close to the fence but not too close! Commonwealth Games 2006, Melbourne.