Britain’s sprint queen Victoria Pendleton looks set to retire from cycling after next year’s Olympic Games.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly ahead of this weekend’s track World Cup in Manchester, the reigning Olympic sprint champion said: “I haven’t really given myself much time to think about what will happen post 2012. What I do know is I probably won’t be racing anymore but I will definitely be involved in the sport in one way or another.”
Everything Pendleton does on the track right now is geared towards the London Games.
Unlike previous years where the strategy has been more experimental, Britain’s World Cup campaign is driven by a pursuit for Olympic qualifying points. Pendleton says she’s prepared to sacrifice top form for the World Championships in March in favour of building of strength for 2012. That’s because chasing three Olympic golds on home turf is as big a competition as she’s ever likely to ride. The pressure to perform is immense.
“Maybe things will change when the Olympics are over, but its going to be such a big push, I’m not sure if anything will match up to it,” she said. “It’s going to be such a mighty mountain to climb.
“Right now 2012 is my only goal as an athlete. Nothing else matters.”
Although Pendleton hasn’t thought too hard about her post-career occupation, she says she really enjoys the extra-curricular promotional work she does for the sport – things like the Sky Rides and a series of sportives she’ll be involved with.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but she wants to spend more time giving back to the sport.
“I think I’m very lucky to have had a successful, enjoyable sporting career and I think having sport in your life is a good thing -physically and psychologically,” she explained. “There are so many benefits to it too. To be a good swimmer you have to be tall and have a good arm span, big hands and feet. Cycling’s not like that. You can be any shape and size to ride a bike.”
She added: “I do feel sometimes that riding around in circles doesn’t contribute much to other people. My dad always says ‘but people enjoy watching you race and supporting the team’. But I’m like ‘yeah, but that’s all about me’ and I’m kind of a bit tired of that.”
Post-racing, Pendleton might also consider a role in team administration. Although women have a fairly equally footing in the team, Britain’s track squad is not so well represented by females at management and coaching level.
Could someone like Pendleton, who’s been there and done it, play a vital role in the progression of the team?
“Maybe. I wouldn’t rule it out,” she said.
For now, though, Pendleton’s got some racing to be getting on with. Just as she hopes to at the Olympics, she’ll be riding in all three of the women’s sprint disciplines this weekend.
“I haven’t specifically focused on this event,” she said. “I’m just arriving here with whatever form I happen to have in building for the worlds. At this stage of the season, you’re getting towards the performance end of the scale anyway.”
Because all the teams are concerned about Olympic qualifying she added: “The field is going to be phenomenally strong – stronger than it will be at the Olympics by far.”
Pendleton rides with Shanaze Reade in the team sprint today. Tomorrow she’ll race the individual sprint, followed by the Keirin on Sunday.