Pendleton’s victory is a massive confidence boost ahead of the London 2012 Olympics, while her win over Anna Meares will mean almost as much as another rainbow jersey.
Pendleton got the better of reigning champion Meares in a controversial semi-final that will only add fuel to one of the most combustible head-to-heads in track cycling.
Pendleton and Meares have a rivalry that could never be described as friendly and it certainly wouldn’t have been helped by a crash in the first race of their semi-final.
The pair were shoulder to shoulder when Olympic champion Pendleton lost her front wheel and crashed to the track at 65 km/h, judges later ruling she had been impeded and scrubbing the Australian’s win.
But Meares dominated their second race, getting her tactics spot on as Pendleton all but conceded defeat at the top of the home straight.
With tensions simmering and a partisan home crowd at their most vocal, the decider went to a photo finish, which Pendleton edged in a victory that had much more significance than just final qualification.
Pendleton had arrived in Melbourne with question marks over her fitness while Meares had looked in imperious form, setting a world record in qualifying.
And losing her world title in front of her home crowd to her arch-rival will badly hurt, a pain that will only be eased by reversing the result in London.
After that drama Pendleton’s final with Simona Krupeckaite should have been low on incident, although the 31-year old British cyclist finally claimed the title after her Lithuanian opponent, who lost the first race, was disqualified in the second.
“The qualification times were phenomenal, everyone has really raised their game in Olympic year and I really didn’t think I would have a chance of winning this title this time yesterday,” said Pendleton, who added she will be calling time on her medalled career after the Olympics.
“It’s not the way I would have liked to have won it but I’m so delighted to have finished my World Championships career on a high with another rainbow jersey, it means so much.”
Elsewhere, Sir Chris Hoy came through a repechage but still progressed to Saturday’s men’s sprint semi-finals, where he will take on defending champion and British team-mate Jason Kenny, his rival for the one available Team GB place in the event at London 2012.
Australia’s Shane Perkins and France’s Gregory Bauge, who looks the in-form rider, will contest the other semi.
But there was disappointment for Great Britain’s Ed Clancy, who just missed out on the medals in the six event omnium – finishing fourth as Australia’s Glenn O’Shea took gold ahead of Canada’s Zach Bell and Denmark’s Lasse Norman Hansen.
Laura Trott lies second at the midway point of the women’s omnium after a second in the flying lap and a first in the elimination race, which is fast becoming her specialty.
But overnight leader, Australia’s Annette Edmondson, shares Trott’s 11 point total.
Meanwhile, Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman has announced he will quit British Cycling’s backroom team at the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympics.
The 43-year old, who won individual pursuit gold 20 years ago, held the blue-riband world hour record and wore the Tour de France yellow jersey three times, has been credited as one of the masterminds of British cycling’s recent successes.
As director of research and development he pioneered the use of engineering and aerodynamics, introducing technical innovations that were the envy of the world and contributed enormously to Team GB’s mammoth haul of 14 medals at the 2008 Olympics.
“The decision is tinged with sadness because it’s a big chunk of my life, but I’m convinced this is the right time,” he said.
© Sportsbeat 2012
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news
BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly