Victora Pendleton has revealed how the pressure of cycling at a world class level sometimes drove her to self-harm, cutting herself with blades in order to 'feel something else'.
The 31 year old cyclist, who announced her retirement from the sport having won two medals at the London 2012 Olympics, said she even cut herself the night she won her first Olympic gold at the Beijing Games.
In her memoir, serialised in the Sunday Times, Pendleton says: "My psychological make-up was unsuited to the brutal world of elite sport."
Pendleton wrote of the first time she harmed herself, in 2003 in a hotel in Aigle, Switzerland, at a training academy for sprinters run by a French coach called Frédéric Magné.
"The first time, I used the knife almost thoughtlessly. I did not sit down and decide, consciously, to cut myself. It was almost as if, instead, I slipped into a trance. I held the Swiss Army knife in my right hand, feeling the solid weight, as if it promised something beyond the empty ache inside me.
"A shiny blade traced a faint line on the pale skin of my left arm. It didn’t hurt, as I had yet to add any pressure. The slight indentation was at least three inches above my wrist. I had no wish to cause myself lasting damage; and there was no thought of me using the knife to open up the blue veins in my wrists.
"I did not want to kill myself. I just wanted to feel something different. Pressing down harder, I had a sudden urge to make myself bleed."
The quotes in this story are extracted from Between the Lines by Victoria Pendleton with Donald McRae, published by HarperSport on September 13 at £20.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.