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Britain's Victoria Pendelton (back) and Australia's Anna Meares
British rider proves critics wrong; Australian up for sprint challenge
After two days of racing at the Olympic Velodrome in London, the expected rivalry between sprinters Victoria Pendleton (Great Britain) and Anna Meares of Australia has failed to fully materialize.
In the team sprint Great Britain was relegated, but both Pendleton's and Meares' relative strengths were made apparent in the first two rounds. Pendleton, in second position, finished with the two fastest final laps of the night. Meares, the fastest first lap rider in the bunch was only once beaten by China's Shuang Guo in her opening effort.
In the keirin the long sprint of Meares was put on display in the heats, where she attacked early in both the qualifying round and in round one to win her heat, while Pendleton played her cards closer to her chest.
In the final, her late-race speed shone through, and Pendleton's final half lap was unmatchable by Guo - Meares never had a chance to re-accelerate after being swamped in the final half lap.
For Pendleton, the win overcame the disappointment of the previous night but also gave her confidence for the sprint tournament ahead. "My legs were still good from last night. I really wanted to show what I've got. It turned out okay, I guess," she said.
"I am really looking forward to the sprint. I am hoping that my time trial will be a little bit more special than it's been over the last couple of years. I've been working on it a lot. I am hoping in the sprint I have a good chance there. I am going to rest up the next couple of days and come back with a vengeance."
Pendleton said her performance in the two rounds was encouraging, and it could herald another individual sprint title later in the week.
"I was very encouraged from Thursday. It was a personal best for me on both rides. I knew my legs were the best they've been ever in my entire life, so how can I not come into this and not give it a great shot? I owe it to myself to get stuck in."
Meares said she made a mistake in the keirin final, but that she is ready to take on Pendleton in the sprints.
"I thought I would go to the front a little early to put myself in what I thought would be a little bit of an advantage spot to fend off the attacks from Vicky," she said after the keirin. "The plan was a good one; I just didn't execute it very well. I was a little bit slow coming into the bell. I got a little bit squeezed at 200m [to go] and it scrubbed all my speed. I had nothing left.
"I was expecting the best from Vicky. She's bounced back from the team sprint to win tonight and I've got to face the same challenge now leading into the sprint. I will be up for it. Oh yeah. I always like a challenge."