Vicki Pendleton’s grandparents were both keen cyclists, as were her parents. Her father Max raced competitively, and was a former National grass track champion. Vicky and her twin brother both started racing on grass. and at the age of 16 her potential was spotted by Marshall Thomas, the assistant team coach to the national track team. She did not concentrate on cycling completely at that time, but continued her studies at the Northumbria University. She then won the 800 metres national grass title three times 1998-2000 before turning to track racing, and the rest is history as Pendleton went on to become the top female track sprinter of the first decade of the 21st century. She won the world sprint title six times (2005, 2007-10, 2012), two team sprint titles (2007-08) and a keirin title (2007), as well as seven more World Championships medals. She also won the Olympic sprint title at the Beijing 2008 Games, where women’s keirin and team sprint were not on the program. She won the kierin and team sporint gold medals at the 2011 European Track Championships in 2011 and at the London Olympics in 2012 she was the first ever women’s Olympic kierin champion. However, two controversial decisions possibly cost her a chance of further golds, although she did win a silver in the individual sprint. Immediately after her last Olympic race Pendleton announced her retirement from the sport.
Her impressive overall medal tally also contained a gold medal from the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She has an exclusive range of Pendleton Cycles on sale in the UK, and her honours include the OBE in 2009 and CBE in 2013. She was also The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and the Sports Journalists’ Association Sportswoman of the Year for 2007. In 2013 she married Scott Gardner, a former sports scientist with the British Cycling coaching team, who she had been linked with romantically during the 2008 Olympics. It cost him his job at the time but he later became Vicki’s personal coach. In 2015, Pendleton switched saddles when she took up horse racing and finished second in her first race at Ripon. She had an impressive first win at Wincanton in March 2016, winning by 29 lengths on Pacha Du Polder. The following month, and barely a year after first sitting on a horse, the pair finished fifth in the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Gold Cup meeting. At the end of 2016 she made her show jumping début at the London International Horse Show at Olympia, and went clear in her very first ever round. Vicki was once asked what she did for a job and she replied: “I turn left for a living!” referring to the anti-clockwise tracks she raced on.