IT MAY not have been the fairy-tale ending she had dreamed of but cycling’s golden girl Victoria Pendleton admitted she was ‘relieved’ to be retiring after clinching a silver medal in her swansong on the track.
The 31 year old stepped out in front of the vociferous capacity home crowd in the London Velodrome on Tuesday evening aiming to win her second gold medal of the 2012 Olympics and successfully defend her women’s individual sprint title that she claimed at the Beijing Games.
As four years ago, a final showdown had been set up with Australian and main rival Anna Meares, one of the most eagerly-anticipated head-to-head contests of London 2012.
In race one of the three-leg final, Mildenhall Cycling Club gold member Pendleton edged out Meares by 0.001 seconds but was somewhat harshly disqualified for riding out of the sprinting lane.
It was the second time during the Games she had suffered relegation from a race after being denied a shot at gold in the team sprint on Thursday after overtaking team-mate Jess Varnish too early, by half a bike wheel, in their semi-final with Ukraine.
Needing to win both the remaining legs, Pendleton tried to hit back but a blistering finish from the 28-year-old from Queensland gave her victory and revenge for a disappointing keirin final defeat on Sunday, in which Britain’s leading lady blew her away down the back straight to snatch gold, ahead of China’s Guo Shuang and Hong Kong’s Wai Sze Lee.
Despite conceding a disappointment at not claiming victory in her final race, an emotional Pendleton spoke of her relief at being able to step away from the track in an interview with the BBC immediately after her final ride.
“I’m just so relieved right now and overwhelmed with emotion,” she said. “I would have loved to have won on my final race but I’m just so glad that it is all done and I can move on.
“I’m glad it got to that stage, I think she is the best rider in the field and it is the way it should have been with myself and Anna in the final.
“She is a fantastic competitor and I wish her all the best, but I’m very glad to be saying that is the last time I am going to go through that.
“This is it, I can’t believe it is all over.”
She may not have been able to sign off in glittering fashion, but Pendleton can proudly look back on a career that has seen her amass a total of 19 medals including two Olympic golds and one silver to rightly be heralded as the nation’s greatest female cyclist to have graced the track.