There was no golden finish to Victoria Pendleton’s career last night but the teary Wilmslow star insisted: “I am just incredibly relieved it’s all over.
“I am looking forward to leading a more normal life,” she added, sobbing at her last-ever media conference.
“It was never my dream or ambition to be a cyclist. Cycling just happened to fall into my lap and I happened to be pretty good at it.
“There have been so many times over the last four years I didn’t think I would make it.
“But I have and I’ve won a gold and a silver medal. I just hope you are not too disappointed because I think I was expected to win gold.
“My aim was to get on the podium just once so I have surpassed my own expectations. I am very satisfied,” said ‘Queen Vic’, a winner of the keirin last Friday.
In the end, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and six- time world sprint champion was denied a hat-trick of sprint titles by Australian rival, Anna Meares.
But just as she started London 2012 with a controversial call against her, Pendleton, 31, was on the receiving end of an even more dubious decision by track judges.
Her celebrations for the closest of opening ride victories, in the best of three head-to-head, were cut short by officials scrutinising a replay of their clash down the home straight.
After a couple of minutes Pendleton’s win of 0.001 seconds was overturned despite protests from GB Performance Director Dave Brailsford.
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At the World Championships in March, Pendleton came back from 1-0 down to beat Meares 2-1 in the semi-finals.
This time there was no great escape and Pendleton was easily beaten in her second ride as the tears began to flow. Sportingly, she applauded Meares on her victory lap and also raised the arm of her successor as Olympic champion.
“I gave her a big solid hug as well as we were waiting to go out to be presented with our medals,” added Pendleton later.
“It’s been an epic rivalry and I hope you have enjoyed it. I don’t think there are two others in the wings like us.
“We’ve just happened to come along at the same time.”
Pendleton’s relegation clearly affected her fragile mental state but she refused to blame it as a contributory factor to her overall defeat.
“I wasn’t aware I came out of sprinters’ lane. When you are going as hard as that it’s not something you can see so easily.
“You have to abide by the commissaries.
But I don’t think I have ever been disqualified and relegated in the space of a week ever in my life. So that’s a PB.
“These things happen. That’s sport. We may make it look easy but it’s hard to go at that speed in such a narrow margin.
“I was annoyed because it’s not something I normally do. And it did throw me a little bit,” added Pendleton, denied a team sprint medal ride with Cheadle’s Jess Varnish last Thursday after being disqualified for an illegal change.
Despite missing out on another gold, Pendleton has nothing to reproach herself for. She has been a role model for her younger GB team-mates and a catalyst, along with Sir Chris Hoy, for a boost in cycle participation.
Eleven years after joining the Academy programme she admitted: “I’m looking forward to doing normal stuff.
“Getting married (to Aussie Scott Gardner) is high on the agenda. I’d like to go skiing too. All the things I stayed away from to be so dedicated to doing these rides.
“But I am never going to don a skin suit again, which I won’t miss.
“I am going to continue to keep cycling to keep fit. That’s it.
“I just want to try new things and new challenges.”