Victoria Pendleton looks to get Olympic plans back on track at Melbourne World Cup
Racing gets under way today in Australia, with highlights on British Eurosport next week
Britain’s Victoria Pendleton is looking to put European Championship disappointment behind her in the Melbourne round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics, which gets under way today.
At the European Championships in Pruskow, Poland last month, Pendleton, Olympic champion in the individual sprint, elected not to ride that event, instead focusing on the team sprint and the keirin.
Those events will both be included in the Olympic programme for women for the first time at London 2012, potentially giving the 30-year-old three gold medal chances.
In Poland, however, Pendleton and partner Jess Varnish were left with silver medals after being beaten to gold by the French pairing of Clara Sanchez and Sandie Clair, and the Briton was out of the podium places in the final of the keirin, finishing fifth.
Reflecting on that campaign in an interview published on the Mirror website this morning, Pendleton , who will pair up again with Furnish in the team sprint final against China later today, said: "It was a good opportunity for me to gauge the workload of taking on more than one discipline at a major championship.
"I wasn't downhearted by the experience at all. In the team sprint, Jess and I came within 0.002 seconds of our time at the world championships last March, and you can't be too disappointed by that performance so early in the racing season.
"There was only half a bike length, maybe only a wheel, in it and if the race had gone on for another 30 metres we would have taken out the French girls. But we still posted the fastest time in the competition.
"I was more annoyed with myself in the keirin,” continues the cyclist. “I knew what to expect, but I didn't deal with it very well. All along I felt there were several pairs of eyes tracking me, waiting for me to make a move and then blocking me off.
"A lot of the skill in keirin racing is about making your move when nobody is looking, but I was under constant surveillance and found myself boxed in to an extent.
"I'm still a novice in the keirin and that showed in Poland. I've still a lot to learn and I need to spend extra hours concentrating on the finer points of it.”
Pendleton, who is engaged tio an Australian, concedes that Britain’s success on the track in recent years gives riders from other countries an added incentive to win, and that situation hasn’t been helped by the fact that London is hosting the 2012 Olympics.
"I'm definitely a marked rider now - and it's the same for all of us who did well in Beijing, but there's no point complaining.
"If I was riding in a race against the Olympic champion, I wouldn't let her out of my sight either, but there's definitely a sense of other riders ganging up on the Brits.
"We're going to be on our home track in 2012 and they are not going to let us turn it into a procession of Brits winning gold."
Pendleton does believe however that she can emulate Sir Chris Hoy achievement at Beijing by making it a hat-trick of gold medals on the track in London in 2012.
"I came home from Poland more convinced I will be able to handle three disciplines in the Olympics and my legs would stand up to the physical demands,” she explains.
"But there's huge pressure coming my way - more than 18 months out from London 2012, I can feel it - and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't bothering me.
"I want to go out with a bang. I want to say, 'Thank you very much, now I'm done with this' and make the most amazing exit I could possibly make from cycling."
Meanwhile, British Eurosport has confirmed that it will be screening highlights from Melbourne next Monday from 10.30am to 12.30pm, repeated the same day at 10pm-midnight. It will also show highlights of the UCI World Cup Cycling Classics rounds in Cali and Beijing, as well as live coverage of the round in Manchester in February.
With the events all counting towards qualification for London 2012, the big names will be turning out to try and secure their Olympic places, which should guarantee some fast and furious racing.