Victoria Pendleton believes perennial adversary Anna Meares is favourite

 

World champion Victoria Pendleton believes perennial adversary Anna Meares is in a commanding position as the start of action in the velodrome looms at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Pendleton beat Meares to gold in Beijing four years ago and defeated the Australian en route to a sixth world sprint title in Melbourne in April, reclaiming the rainbow jersey after from her rival.

The 31-year-old from Stotfold, who intends to retire after the Games, said: "She probably has the advantage going in, because her performances on the whole over the last 12 months have been more solid than mine.

"I had that one occasion at the worlds and some of it was down to the discretion of the commissaires, so it wasn't purely based necessarily on performance.

"The rivalry thing between Anna Meares and myself has been blown out of proportion and sensationalised to make it sound worse than it really is.

"We're just two individuals who happen to have reached the top of our performance in our sporting lives at the same time, so we meet each other often.

"I have a huge respect for Anna Meares and I know that she has for me. We're just very competitive individuals and our performances have converged at the same moment in a period of time."

The London 2012 track programme begins on Thursday.

Pendleton, who is also set to compete in the keirin and team sprint, alongside Jess Varnish, in the Games, knows the sprint will be more than just a duel with Meares.

She said: "I can't discount anyone and with an event like the sprint, it's down to split-second decisions."

Britain won seven out of 10 titles in Beijing, but the track programme was overhauled, with events altered and gender parity installed.

In Melbourne this year, Britain won five of the 10 gold medals in Olympic events, auguring well for London.

Laura Trott won two, in the women's team sprint and the omnium.

The 20-year-old from Cheshunt said: "Australia are definitely are main rivals. I don't think you can count out USA and the Kiwis either, but for me it's definitely the Australians."

Australia and Britain are set for a titanic tussle on the Siberian pine, including in the men's team pursuit.

Geraint Thomas, who won team pursuit gold in Beijing, said: "It's just exciting now. We've been talking about it for so long.

"We're racing on Thursday. We're just looking forward to getting on the boards and showing what we've got.

"We want to go there and try to win that gold medal.

"The Aussies, Kiwis and Russians have really upped their game and the team pursuit is one of the closest battles now.

"We're looking forward to it."

PA

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