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Cycling's glamor girl Pendleton ponders next career move

From Amanda Davies and Gary Morley, CNN
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Victoria Pendleton is stepping into the unknown following end of her cycling career
  • British rider was one of the official faces of the London 2012 Olympics
  • She won a gold and silver medal after a controversial disqualification
  • The nine-time world champion says she considered retiring after Beijing 2008

(CNN) -- You're an Olympic champion and you've gone out at the top of your game -- so what next?

Gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton is contemplating a future path which is being followed by many young people in her native Great Britain, and indeed around the world ... work experience.

While the cyclist -- one of the official faces of London 2012 alongside fellow golden girl Jessica Ennis -- is not exactly short of lucrative endorsement deals to tide her over in these times of economic uncertainty, she told CNN she has no idea what she is going to do next.

"I'm going to take some time out just to work out what, because obviously I've spent my whole life turning left at speed. I think I need time to try lots of different things to find out what I enjoy, what I might be good at -- I don't really know," said Pendleton, who won silver in her final race in a GB kit.

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"I'm going to use the contacts that I've made through my success in cycling and just do loads of work experience to start with and then just see where it goes.

"My only concern is not being able to find something that I can be equally as successful at. Obviously you can't win Olympic gold medals for every aspect of life, but I just want to be good at something -- I just want to be really good at something, that's all I want."

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Cycling has been Pendleton's life, and her success and good looks have made her a regular in glossy men's magazines and a big draw for advertisers, but she says she's glad her competitive days are now behind her.

"It was just an absolute relief; I will never have to do that ever again. Going into the home Olympics as the Olympic champion and being named as one of the poster girls of the Games, people were much more aware of me as an athlete and my profile because I was marked as one of the potential gold medalists," the 31-year-old said.

"So it was difficult, it was really difficult to handle the pressure at times, and the expectation. So I wouldn't do it ever again!

"I think if the Olympics were in any other country in the world I would have retired after Beijing. I was looking at continuing for another four years past where I'd kind of decided I'd perhaps had enough already.

"Four years is a long time to be living in this process, going towards a home Games -- it's a long time to be stuck in that kind of bubble."

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Pendleton was unable to retain her sprint title from Beijing 2008, but bounced back from a disqualification in her opening event -- the team sprint -- to claim gold in the keirin.

"Of course I'm sad that I couldn't take away two gold medals. Retrospectively standing here, I won a gold and silver medal at the Olympic Games; I'm really pleased with that! It's history already. Just move on and enjoy it really," she said.

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Pendleton was beaten in the two-woman sprint final by Anna Meares after having her win in the first ride ruled out, as the Australian reversed their podium placings from four years ago.

"Anna and I have had a really fantastic rivalry over the past six years and I think I'm a better sprinter because of her influence -- and I'm sure she feels likewise," she said.

"We've pushed each other on. If she hadn't had been there I might not have achieved the level that I had. It'd be hard to push to find another rivalry like it, especially in women's sprinting. I think we did really push the boundaries there."

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Pendleton, who has also won nine world titles, hopes that British cycling can continue its recent dominance.

"We were lucky enough to have significant funding from UK Sport and The Lottery in the beginning because we had been successful and won the occasional medal through the likes of Chris Boardman, Jason Queally, Chris Hoy, and it set the program up to develop and improve," she said.

"Success brings success and I think that's slightly coincidental almost, but then it's created a kind of momentum that we've just been rolling with ever since."

The hard work has paid off, and Pendleton can now reap the rewards -- whatever she decides to do next.

"All the best things in life come through hard work and sacrifice. Easy wins don't mean as much," she said.

"It's the ones that take the hard work and the effort, tolerance, the sacrifice, and the commitment, all the tough things, they're the ones that you really remember and that really count."

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