LE Newsletter - September 8, 2011


  Kamloops’ Catharine Pendrel Wins Mountain Biking World Title In Switzerland

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman

(September 03, 2011) Canadian mountain biker Catharine Pendrel needed an answer before the London Olympics: Could she summon what it takes to win a big race?

There'd be some excruciating close calls. She was fourth at the Beijing Olympics, falling back when a late gear change went wrong. At last year's worlds on home soil in Mont Ste-Anne, Que., she slipped from second to fourth in the final stretch.

Not this time, though.

Pendrel answered any doubts emphatically Saturday with a gold medal win in the women's cross-country race at the world mountain bike championships in Champery, Switzerland.

“I think kind of what I learned last year was just because you're on good form doesn't mean that there won't be a different game when it comes to world championships,” Pendrel said in a telephone interview. “People are able to find something else, to put in an extra level of preparation for big events. Knowing that and how hard it is, I knew how much I'd have to fight and have to want it.

“I'm glad I figured that out now because when it comes to the Olympics next year I don't want to be thinking 'Do I have what it takes to win?' I wanted to figure that out now.”

That she had the right mindset needed is evident to her reaction to Canadian shot putter Dylan Armstrong's silver medal performance at the world track and field championships.

Pendrel and Armstrong share a lot in common. They both live in Kamloops, B.C., and have also been matching each other's results of late at major competitions. They were both fourth in Beijing. They were both fourth last year at their respective world championships. Something about the water in Kamloops, perhaps?

“As much as I was excited for Dylan getting second, I thought 'Dylan, I'm going to have to one up you this year,'“ said Pendrel.

Pendrel finished 28 seconds ahead of reigning world champion Maja Wloszczowska of Poland with her winning time of 1 hour, 14 minutes and 16 seconds. Eva Lechner of Italy was third, about a minute and a half behind.

After a strong start, Pendrel was patient and conserved energy as Wloszczowska went out hard on the climbs, finally making her move to the front on one of the long descents. The Polish cyclist tried to close on the last lap, but Pendrel fended her off.

“Definitely on that last lap, you're just burying yourself and giving everything,” she said.

Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont., the team's rising young star, placed an impressive eighth in the race to match her World Cup ranking in her rookie year on the senior circuit, one spot ahead of Canadian veteran Marie-Helene Premont.

If there was a disappointment, it was that French rival Julie Bresset was not in the race. They've battled head-to-head this season and Bresset edged her for the World Cup crown. Bresset had to race in the women's under-23 event because of UCI rules and she won that race. But Pendrel had established herself as the stronger rider in the last three races.

Olympic legend Clara Hughes, who was doing the commentary for CBC at last year's worlds, had said that fourth-place result would make Pendrel hungrier.

Her appetite sure seems voracious right now. The world title put an emphatic exclamation point on what's been a brilliant season for Pendrel, who won three World Cup races this season and the pre-Olympic race in London while earning the No. 1 world ranking.

“It's pretty cool, this was definitely one of my lifetime career goals in cycling,” said the 30-year-old. “It's going to take a while to sink in, but I get to wear the (world champion's) jersey for a year and to enjoy it and savour it.”

It's a white jersey with a rainbow strip across.

“I'm going to have to learn to keep white clean, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice,” she said.