• Former cyclist came agonisingly close to victory at Ripon, North Yorkshire
  • The glamorous 34-year-old was leading before losing out in a photo-finish  
  • In 2012 retired from cycling as Britain’s most successful female Olympian
  • Then made surprise announcement in March she was training to be jockey 

Jack Crone

and
Jonny Singer for MailOnline

She was a world-beating cyclist, winning two Olympic gold medals for Team GB before her retirement following London 2012.

And it’s clear Victoria Pendleton hasn’t lost her competitive edge – as she came agonisingly close to a fairytale victory on her first ride as a fully-fledged amateur jockey today. 

Despite being a novice in the saddle, she was leading her first competitive race at at Ripon Racecourse in North Yorkshire today, before being pipped to the line in a photo-finish.

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Agonisingly close: The former Olympic cyclist was pipped at the post riding at Ripon Racecourse today

Agonisingly close: The former Olympic cyclist was pipped at the post riding at Ripon Racecourse today

Competitive: Ms Pendleton announced back in March that she was training to become a jockey

Competitive: Ms Pendleton announced back in March that she was training to become a jockey

The glamorous former cyclist rode a horse called Royal Etiquette as she competed in the Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap.

Wearing red and white with a yellow helmet, Ms Pendleton was slow out the stalls before storming into the lead in front of hundreds of wet fans at Ripon.

Her odds before the race were 14-1 and in the end she lost out to 33-1 horse Jordaura – and was seen looking disappointed after crossing the line.

Ms Pendleton made the surprise announcement in March that she was training to become a jockey, despite previously claiming she was looking forward to ‘normal’ things in retirement.

Aspirations: Ms Pendleton is hoping to compete in the Foxhunter's Chase at Cheltenham next March

Aspirations: Ms Pendleton is hoping to compete in the Foxhunter’s Chase at Cheltenham next March

Nearly there: Pendleton urges her mount on, after taking an early lead and attempting to hold off the chasing pack at Ripon, North Yorkshire today

Nearly there: Pendleton urges her mount on, after taking an early lead and attempting to hold off the chasing pack at Ripon, North Yorkshire today

Photo-finish: Victoria Pendleton (right, in red), riding Royal Etiquette, is just pipped to the line in a photo-finish 

Photo-finish: Victoria Pendleton (right, in red), riding Royal Etiquette, is just pipped to the line in a photo-finish 

The 34-year-old – who competed in her first race last month – a charity event at Newbury on board the giant Mighty Mambo – has more rides pencilled in, and even hopes to challenge in the prestigious Foxhunter Chase, a race known as the ‘amateur Gold Cup’ at Cheltenham next March.

The huge fences taken at speeds in excess of 30mph are not for the faint-hearted. 

‘It might be mental… well, it is totally mental. But I’m free! I’m free to do whatever I want,’ says Victoria in a surprisingly frank Daily Mail interview. ‘I’d been racing bikes since I was nine so it was a long time of the same thing.

‘But when I retired I missed going into training and knowing exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it. Don’t get me wrong, I still love gardening, but I felt old before my time.’

Victoria was riding a bike by the time she was three, encouraged by her father Max, a keen amateur cyclist. 

With two golds (including one at London 2012) and a silver, she is our most successful female Olympian, and a woman who proved that you could beat the competition and still look amazing in a frock.

Focused pre-race: Ms Pendleton walks the course before her first race under rules, in which she finished second

Focused pre-race: Ms Pendleton walks the course before her first race under rules, in which she finished second

On the podium: The 34-year-old is pictured with the other jockeys after coming second in the Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders' Handicap

On the podium: The 34-year-old is pictured with the other jockeys after coming second in the Betfair Novice Flat Amateur Riders’ Handicap

Victoria admits she was ‘relieved’ to retire after the London Games, but in an experience shared by many top sportsmen and women, she also felt lost. 

So when last year she was offered the chance to learn to race horses under the auspices of Yogi Breisner, Team GB’s equestrian guru who trains Zara Phillips, she leapt at it.

‘I wouldn’t have been allowed to do it before,’ Victoria concedes. ‘Horse riding was on the “no” list like skiing. I wasn’t even allowed to go to the cinema because of germs.

‘I loved cycling and was part of an awesome time in the sport, but it was a relief to leave it behind. 

‘That said, being in your early 30s and feeling like it’s over for you career-wise is frightening. You work so hard for something in your life and suddenly it’s over. I underestimated how much I’d miss being part of a team.’ 

Cycling success: The athlete won two golds, the first in the Beijing Olympics, the second at London 2012 (above)

Cycling success: The athlete won two golds, the first in the Beijing Olympics, the second at London 2012 (above)

National treasure: With two golds  and a silver, she is our most successful female Olympian ever

National treasure: With two golds and a silver, she is our most successful female Olympian ever

Olympic cycle race gold medallist Victoria Pendleton poses for Pantene Pro-V shampoo.
Victoria Pendleton and Brendan Cole took part in a series of the BBC dance show Strictly Come Dancing

Glamorous Victoria Pendleton and Brendan Cole took part in a series of the BBC dance show Strictly Come Dancing

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