Catharine Pendrel captured her third Canadian Mountain Biking championship in convincing fashion, leading from first lap to finish at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Saturday (July 16).
Billed as a two-woman race between Pendrel and six-time national champion Mari-Helene Premont, Pendrel sniffed out any semblance of a challenge after the first lap. The Kamloops resident had a 45 second lead after the first trip around the Nordic Centre loop, and she continued to widen her lead as the race went on.
“Mari pushed on the first climb but by the second lap she went into reduction,” Pendrel said.
Pendrel fell into a strong rhythm, which left her competitors in the dust.
“It was different than last year. I was able to keep my momentum and a good pace,” Pendrel said.
Premont attacked on the first lap, but said the altitude got the best of her on the technical climbs.
“Breathing was painful,” she said.
She did enjoy the course more than her 1999 win, where she battled a July snowstorm on her way to victory.
Rising star Emily Batty finished third, four-and-a-half minutes behind Pendrel.
“I tried to stick with the leaders as long as I could. Mari was ahead and I kept thinking anything can happen,” Batty said. “The single track is actually similar to what we have at home (in Brooklyn, ON).”
Although small, Canada has the strongest women’s mountain bike team in the world, and competition will be fierce for Olympic births.
“There are three of us fighting for two spots, so it’s important for me to have a solid training block” Batty said.
Mikaela Kofman won the U23 title. The young mountain biker who studies anatomy at McGill University realized a dream with the win.
“This feels surreal. It was definitely a goal of mine,” Kofman said. “The course was challenging and I had to work to not go crazy at the start and the rest of the girls were riding with fire under their bums.”
The local women faired well in the elite category. Newly-minted Canmorite Catherine Vipond finished first, while Banff’s Margie Smith was 121th. Brittany Webster finished 13th and Magi Scallion was 15th.
Vipond suffered an eye injury on the first lap and had to finish the race without the use of her right eye. She suspects an insect bit her, since the area was swollen.
“It was good knowing the course so well,” she said, still squinting. “I rode as well as I could.”
She wanted to improve upon her fourth place finish at the 2010, but said riding with one good eye did hinder her performance.
Margie Smith said the 25 C heat made the climbs extra difficult. As an endurance athlete, she was more concerned with finishing than landing on the podium.
“My goal was not to get lapped, and I achieved that,” Smith said.
Cross-country ski athlete Brittany Webster continued her foray into mountain biking. She admitted to still experiencing ‘flashbacks’ of a mountain biking accident that broke her leg four years ago, however she’s rediscovering the fun of racing through her cycling adventures.
“I’m taking time off to have more fun. Mountain biking is letting me get the fun back into racing,” Webster said.
“On the downhills, I’m terrible,” Webster said, who skipped the eyedropper downhill section of the course.
Webster said she’s used to racing hard for 45 minutes, so the hour and a half race was taxing.