Dual Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton looks set to take part in the Cambridge University United Hunts Club Point-To-Point at Cottenham, near Cambridge, on Sunday November 29th.

Just nine months after having her initial riding lesson, the 35-year-old will be jumping a steeplechase fence for the first time in public if she partners Minella Theatre in the race that kicks off the 2015-16 Point-To-Point season, the PPORA Club Members Race, which comes under orders at noon.

Minella Theatre is one of 87 horses entered in a six-race fixture which concludes at 2.55pm with a two and a half mile Young Horse Maiden Race.

Sponsored by the betting exchange, Betfair, 35-year-old Pendleton has been enticed out of retirement to attempt an audacious  ‘Switching Saddles’ challenge with the aim of transforming from a complete novice to riding at the world’s most prestigious jumps racing fixture – the Cheltenham Festival – in March 2016.

Britain’s most successful female Olympian with two golds medals and one silver, since hanging up her lycra body suit after London 2012 Pendleton is best known for competing in that year’s Strictly Come Dancing, in which she finished eighth.

She has been taking this challenge incredibly seriously, receiving initial riding tuition from one of the country’s top instructors, British Eventing’s National Coach, Yogi Breisner, and also getting guidance from the champion racehorse trainer, Paul Nicholls.

Pendleton was beaten into second in a photo finish on her first ride in an official race, on the flat at Ripon on August 31st.  She has had two more unsuccessful flat rides since then but is now diverting her attention to the more difficult – and highly dangerous – discipline of point-to-pointing (amateur steeplechasing).

She will compete throughout the upcoming Point-To-Point season on two Betfair-owned horses, According To Sarah and Sedgemoor Express, both trained, like Minella Theatre, by the Oxfordshire-based handler, Alan Hill.

“I’ve always loved animals and being around horses. Horses are beautiful, majestic and magical, I’m in awe of them and I don’t know how anyone could not be drawn in by them,” said Victoria.

“As a girl I begged my father at Christmas for a pony but my Mum and Dad said ‘no way, have a bike instead, you won’t have to muck it out and it hasn’t got a brain so you’ve got half a chance of controlling it.

“Cycling was my inevitable destination as I am from a family of cyclists, but it was not something that I chose to do. This is different, it’s the most fun that I have ever had, it really is, and lots of people are saying that they have never seen me look so happy.

“When Betfair first proposed the Switching Saddles challenge I felt that the stars were aligning – just imagine if I had felt the same passion for cycling that I currently have for riding horses!

“This is a ridiculous, audacious challenge. The biggest part of it is that I have gone from a complete novice, I’ve started from the very, very bottom and I only had my first riding lesson on February 22nd. I have to be realistic, I know that all the best things take time, perseverance and dedication, it’s not going to happen overnight.

“Hopefully one day I might be a decent rider, but if I don’t qualify for Cheltenham this year it won’t stop me from trying and I won’t stop riding.

“I’ve already been to a couple of point-to-point meetings and it’s a sport that more people should be aware of. It’s a really fun day out with a nice atmosphere.”

Image copyright of Betfair

NOV15 news pendleton