Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Victoria Pendleton on jump-racing: "It feels like you're flying"

Double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton has condemned the sexism of cycling - insisting she would rather continue horse-racing and even take up dressage than take her bike off the track and on to the road.
The Beijing 2008 and London 2012 gold medallist told Metro she has spurned her father’s calls to take up road cycling due to the lack of Tour de France-style opportunities for women racers.
Instead she has taken up horse-racing instead, with her sights set on competing at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
She also joked about taking up dressage, combining her new-found devotion to horse-riding with her valiant efforts as a former Strictly Come Dancing contestant.
Pendleton, 34, was speaking as she also prepares to become the first Olympian to host the annual Team GB Ball, at London’s Royal Opera House on September 9 - hoping to help boost fund-raising in the countdown to next summer’s Rio Olympics.

Pendleton retired from track cycling after winning gold and silver at the London 2012 Olympics, adding to the gold she achieved in Beijing four years earlier.
She criticised at the time the fact her male counterparts such as Sir Chris Hoy had more events to enter than the women.
And the shortage of prestige road-cycling events to compare with the men’s Tour de France is among the reasons she has put cycling on the backburner - aside from the occasional leisurely mountain-bike ride with husband Scott Gardner.
Her father Max, a keen amateur biker, encouraged her cycling from childhood - and has tried to persuade her to shift to road-racing since London 2012 but in vain.
She said: ‘I’m too old now for road-racing.
‘It would be different if I’d spent a lot more time doing it in the past but personally I found it difficult.
‘And the women have such different opportunities to the men - in fact. it would make me angry.
‘If I was a boy I’d definitely be looking into road-cycling but as a female the sad reality is there aren’t the same opportunities.’
Pendleton has long been unafraid to court controversy, whether with her romance with coach Gardner in defiance of Team GB rules and her autobiography’s candour about depression and self-harm.
She said: ‘I’ve always been a very honest person, very open. I say there’s no harm in being honest. Throughout my career I’ve been told to not show any weakness to my competitors but I disagree entirely.
‘As humans we all have challenges to face and difficult times. It doesn’t stop you from becoming a champion. It doesn’t have to be that way.’
She is presently spending six days a week horse-racing, targeting a place in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham next March.
She said: ‘After London 2012 I thought I’d really enjoy having a lot more time to myself - I’ve got a lovely veg patch at home and I do like a bit of gardening.
‘But I just felt I was missing out on what life has to offer.
‘I just keep myself very busy. I’m very fortunate I’ve been able to do that through lots of different opportunities. I think, why not?
‘You only live once - you might as well give it a shot. I’m a bit of a whirlwind - I love to life my life. You can’t sleep when you’re dead.’
Some have criticised her for taking up horse-racing as part of a so-called 'stunt' by bookmakers Betfair but her competitive instinct seems more of a motivating urge - whatever others' interest.
She said: 'Betfair approached me with a proposal, saying they wanted someone to convey what it takes to become a jockey from the outside world. It’s a very closed sport. I just thought it would be really interesting for an athlete to experience that experience. 
'I love animals - my first job was working in stables, cleaning out and brushing, though I didn’t sit on any horses.
'I thought I’d give it a try and after a week I thought, I love this. Since then I’ve been training pretty much every day, or six days a week. I’ve gone from experienced to a complete novice.
'The first time I jumped I had no warning it was coming up - they wanted it come to me naturally. The first one was just a foot off the floor and fortunately it was okay. Then they started building up. At first it was just between poles, then some brush fences and increasing speed.
'I thought this was a little daunting but I knew the horse was very reliable and really enjoys jumping. I just had to be quiet, not do too much and hope for the best.
'When you do jump it feels like you’re flying - it’s just an incredible feeling.'
But her hopes of continuing her dancing career, after lasting seven weeks with partner Brendan Cole in the 2012 Strictly series, have been put on hold for now.
She said: ‘I had a barbecue at Brendan’s house just a couple of weekends ago and then I saw him on the train into London the other day, so we had a good chat.
‘I keep saying to him I’d like some more lessons - he laughs and says I’ve missed my chance.
‘I haven’t convinced him yet - I suppose asking him to give me dance lessons is like asking me to teach someone to ride a bike, you don’t fancy doing it in your free time.’

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