Review first published by 07/10/12
The Golden Girl of British cycling opens up, for the first time, in searingly honest detail about what drives her to compete in a sport she no longer loves. Written with Donald McRae, 2 time winner of the William Hill Award, “Between the Lines” promises to be THE Olympic autobiography.
Victoria Pendleton MBE is not your typical female athlete.
Admired as much by the weekly glossies as she is the newspaper back pages, she transcends her sport.
In 2005 she became first British female to win Gold at the cycling World Championships in 40 years. She followed it up with gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and another World Championship in 2007.
Arriving in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, Pendleton was on top of the world. She didn’t disappoint.
In an enthralling example of track cycling, Pendleton took Gold and joined the ranks of British Olympic heroes.
And then it started to go wrong.
Feted by the press and the public alike, behind the scenes the cracks and strains started to show. Despite retaining her World Champion status in 2009, it was a close run thing and her shield of invincibility started to drop. Victoria was falling out of love with her sport.
The sport that had made her was starting to tear her apart.
“Between the Lines” documents the considerable lows as well as the well-known highs and reveals why Victoria almost turned her back on cycling before rediscovering her Championship winning form in 2011, the day after suffering one of her most humiliating days on the track.
Hitting the shelves within a matter of weeks from the end of her Olympic programme and written with Donald McRae, two time winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, “Between the Lines” promises to be the most honest and emotional book from an Olympian to date.
Yeah, alongside the majority of people who moaned “I wouldn’t be watching the Olympics” in Britain, I was swept away with the summer of sport of not only the Olympics but the Paralympics as well. And as sure as eggs is eggs, there’s going to be a plethora of Olympian memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, exposes and “Lifting the Lid” type books, so what drew me to this one? Basically, it’s the humanity of the writing by Victoria Pendleton alongside her collaborator Donald McRae.
The book follows Victoria from her days as an amateur cyclist riding alongside her father, noted amateur cyclist Max Pendleton, into her graduation up to the professional ranks within the British Cycling organisation and the highs and lows of competitive cycling.
Whilst the highs are fascinating in themselves along with passages of individual races that are thrilling enough to be translated on to screen as effectively as any sports film with recollections which are sharp in their clarity including race moves and times, it’s the lows that prove all the more fascinating and indeed moving.
With the benefit of no longer being beholden to the management of British Cycling, Victoria paints a brutally honest picture of her life as a sporting professional including her lack of confidence in her own abilities in comparison to her contemporaries such as her main rival Anna Meares, her self-harming whilst at the UCI cycling institute in Aigle and her fractured relationship with the British Cycling heirachy in the aftermath of her falling in love with Scott Gardner, a performance coach/analyst with British Cycling and now her fiance. She also manages to do this without feeling the need to “dish the dirt” or being derogatory, bitchy or sensationalist and her professionalism extends beyond the end of her retirement as a cyclist.
She is also quick to credit that her success is not just down to her own work but through the structures she has had in place through her family, Scott and her close support team “Team Pendleton” including Dr Steve Peters, the sports psychologist who helped Victoria throughout her career following her experiences in Aigle.
At the age of 40 and not being particularly athletic (despite returning to the gym), I will never know what it is like to be an elite athlete. However, as a person who has what he calls the “wobbles” with his personal confidence, Victoria’s battles with her self esteem struck a chord with me and there are life lessons in this book that I will aim to take with myself.
If you’re a sports fan, particularly of track cycling, you will love this book, but there’s plenty in here for lovers of biographies and human stories. A gutsy read from a gutsy woman.
If you would like to know more about Victoria Pendleton, please following the link to her website.