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Iñigo Mujika

Physiology & Training

INTERVIEWS WITH THE ELITE - Victoria Pendleton: "I am always looking to the next goal and how I am going to do it better, faster or more efficiently than the last one"

June 5, 2010
Cyclist Victoria Pendleton, on the olimpic track in Beijing

Cyclist Victoria Pendleton, on the olimpic track in Beijing

What part of what you have achieved can be attributed to your natural ability, how much to hard work and how much to the contribution of those around you?

I have no idea how much of what I have achieved is down to natural ability. I was talent spotted when cycling as a hobby at 16, I had no intention of pursuing it as a career. I am someone who likes to do anything well so I work as hard as I can as I hate mediocrity. I am however very fortunate to be in a sport and specifically a team where they invest time, effort and money in innovation, to optimise all areas of performances, giving me the best advice and facilities to complete my training regime.

You are World and Olympic champion: how do you keep motivated to keep going?

I think I am always looking to the next goal and how I am going to do it better, faster or more efficiently than the last one. I am never satisfied; I thought that the Olympic title would be the one to make me feel differently, but when someone in my team wins three, it kind of puts things back into perspective. I am a perfectionist, that’s why I have to keep going, despite knowing that perfection will never be achieved.

You are the image of victory on top of the podium, but who else deserves some credit for your victories? In other words, how many people make up your support team?

I have a massive amount of people supporting me on a daily basis, more than I can mention, here is few just to give you an idea:

  • Scott Gardner, (obviously) performance scientist/fiancé
  • Steve Peters, psychologist
  • Mark Simpson, strength and conditioning
  • Jan van Eijden, tactical/technique
  • Iain Dyer, coaching support
  • Shane Sutton, manager/advisor
  • Ernie Feargreive & Mark Ingam, mechanics
  • Phil Burt, physiotherapist
  • Sylvan Richardson, massage therapist
  • Paul Barrat, biomechanist
  • Duncan Locke, Chris White, performance analysts

Separate from these guys there is a large Innovation team which is headed by Chris Boardman, Matt Parker, and Scott Drawer, who work behind the scenes.

The success of GB cycling in recent years has drawn attention to the work of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) sport scientists and strength & conditioning coaches.

I work with many EIS staff; my strength and conditioning coach Mark Simpson is one of my closest coaching relationships, he knows me better than I do! We have had the support of the EIS since just after 2002 and they have been a huge help to the cycling team. They are based just across the road from the velodrome, and this creates an ideal set-up. Being able to pool specialists for a number of sports allows them to establish a high standard of expertise. Something which is very much the ethos of British Cycling.

Are there some elements of your training / preparation with them that may surprise the readers?

I suppose that ½ of what I do is EIS lead, Mark is my only “coach”, as in he tells me what to do. I write my own cycling program.

Could you comment on the role that psychiatrist Steve Peters has played in your cycling career?

Steve is responsible for getting me to the top, without Steve and all the hard work we have done together since 2004 I can quite honestly say that I would not have become Olympic Champion. I had the raw materials and the motivation to train at the highest level, but I just didn’t have the mental skills and the self-belief to go all the way to the top. My head was the only thing holding back. I would have quit after 2004 Athens if Steve wouldn’t have come along.

Could you briefly describe your weekly training plan?

As a general plan I would train three mornings (10:00-12:30) a week in the gym doing free weights, cleans, dead lifts, squats, etc. Four track sessions (2-5 pm), in between I would do about 5-6 hours on the road. Saturday or Sunday (normally weather dependant) is a complete rest day.

When did you start cycling, and when did you start specializing for your specific track events?

I started going out with my dad on the back of a tandem (specially modified...wooden blocks on the pedals so that I could reach them!!). I started racing on track bikes when I was nine, with my twin brother. I was talent spotted at 16 but I wasn’t convinced to start taking it seriously (despite all the efforts of the British Cycling Federation) until I finished my studies. After getting a 2:1 at university in sports science I went into full-time sprint training after the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It has been a long cycling career but in terms of sprint specificity fairly short.

Do the media play an important role in the path of an elite athlete?

It is important to maintain a good relationship with all media links, as this is key to any sponsorship opportunities. All major sponsorship deals will be based on you delivering a key message or advertising a product through media channels to the public. This is part of my job as I am self employed and do not receive any financial support through my sport directly.

How do you balance your life as an elite athlete and your other public activities?

I had to manage a fairly hectic sponsorship schedule post Worlds. I have a sports agent who coordinates and negotiates on my behalf. Balancing training and sponsors is almost a full-time job and I am certain I couldn’t do it without external help form my agent.

How do you cope with fame?

I’m not famous!!! I live a very ordinary and simple lifestyle, riding in circles! Occasionally I do wear pre-season designer dresses and attend slightly glamorous events, like the F1 Grand Prix, but otherwise my life is very normal.

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