Number 26: Victoria Pendleton
Last year’s position: 9
This is arguably the most difficult year in the four-year Olympic cycle. The come down and cool off from Beijing is over but the build-up to London has yet to truly begin in earnest.
The 18 months that lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games are what really count. That is where the work is done. But this year was a little like being in limbo for the big, established stars of British Cycling’s track sprint squad.
Pendleton, like Sir Chris Hoy, are at the top of the tree. They are there to be shot at. Their reputations go before them. And yet they cannot race every event at the same level and with the same intensity as the Olympics or even the Worlds in Olympic year. And so they have everything to lose and not much to gain. Win and it’s taken a little for granted. Lose and the murmurs start, the questions are asked. Is this the beginning of the end?
Ludicrous talk, of course, but it’s understandable. And so, in the context of where we are in the run-up to London, Pendleton has had an excellent year.
In Ballerup, Copenhagen, in March, Pendleton won the world sprint title for the fifth year in a row and the sixth time in her career. She was also second in the Keirin and recorded a very reasonable time of 33.383 with Jess Varnish in the team sprint, although they eventually missed out on the bronze medal.
At the National Championships in September she clocked up her 28th national title winning the sprint (for the ninth year in a row), the 500m time trial and keirin.
The European Championships showed she was still working on her speed, because she was fifth in the Keirin final and did not ride the sprint.
However, the mark of the rider is that in a year when she is not expected by her coaching team to be at her best, Pendleton still rose to the occasion to win a world title. It bodes well for the next two track seasons.
Cycling Weekly’s Top British Riders of 2010 advent calendar: We will reveal one rider per day behind the virtual doors of our sparkly advent calendar from Wednesday December 1 to Christmas Eve, Friday December 24. The top eight will then be revealed in Cycling Weekly magazine’s final issue of the year, which will be in the shops on December 30 2010.