“These things happen,” said a weary looking Victoria Pendleton. She said it with purpose, her brilliant blue eyes looking straight at the journalist who had asked her the question. But even then you got the feeling that the only person she was trying to convince was herself.
“How could they do this to you Vicky?” was the question directed at Great Britain’s glamour girl of these Olympics. It seemed, that even for the gathered press, it was too much to believe what had just happened.
To her credit, Pendleton managed to keep her composure. The tears had been flowing only seconds ago, but the petite brunette purposefully wiped them away before trudging off her bike and towards the gathered press at the mixed zone in the center of the stunning Velodrome at the Olympic Park.
Pendleton’s first sprint run had seen her and teammate Jess Varnishcrack set the world record, albeit briefly. The Brits had started slowly in their first heat but once Pendleton stepped on the afterburners there was no stopping them. The riders, representing a futuristic brand of soldiers in their bodysuits and aerodynamic helmets whizzed around the speedy track in bullet speed. They consistently broke the 50km/hr barrier as they teetered on the edge of control but somehow managed to whoosh by.
China broke the world record again within a few minutes and the Olympic record fell four times in an hour as the Velodrome lived up to it’s reputation of being a fast track.
But in this case, perhaps Pendleton had been a bit too fast. Rules state that on the team sprints the rider behind cannot get ahead of the rider in front until a specified point. Pendleton it seemed had accelerated a bit too quickly and reached that point ahead of her teammate Varnish.
“We do these changeover thousands of times,” lamented Pendleton. “All I was focusing on were Jess’s wheels and I had no idea of anything else. We were probably just a bit too eager,” she concluded.
“My sprints were by far the fastest in my life so far. I am really sorry for disappointing all of the supporters,” she said. “It’s encouraging, because it shows my form is really good, because that is by far the fastest lap I’ve ridden. When you’re going at that speed, it’s really hard to know where the change comes.”
It had all seemed so simple. Great Britain had dismantled Ukraine in the semifinals and had looked set to compete in the gold medal final against China who had broken the world record twice.
But one moment of madness, one little slip-up and the dream had disintegrated.
Track cycling is Great Britain’s big chance for gold this time around, with Sir Chris Hoy in the men’s and Pendleton in the women’s dominating the build-up.
Pendleton had confessed that her preparations for her cycling swansong had been phenomenal and said that she really could ‘not get any fitter.’
Which probably made Thursday’s debacle all the harder to swallow.
“Now and again rubbish things happen and this is one of them,” said Pendleton philosophically.
The home games have started on a disastrous note for Pendleton but if her performance was something to go by, she looks to be a strong competitor for the other two disciplines she is participating in.
“The only positive I can take is I know I’m in good form,” said Pendleton. Britain will be hoping that form translates into some gold.
-With The Daily Star input