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Mountain bikers and triathletes join other Olympic hopefuls on Island

Posted on November 15, 2015

Two-time world champion Catharine Pendrel, a big Canadian gold-medal hope for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, made her way around the ever-burgeoning mountain-bike trails at Bear Mountain this weekend.

Meanwhile, many of Canada’s rising young triathletes are training around Greater Victoria in a camp.

If the Canadian effort at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and beyond has a made-on-the-Island label attached to it, there is a reason. The Canadian mountain biking and triathlon teams have formalized their national-team bases here with Triathlon Canada moving its entire office to Victoria and Cycling Canada doing the same for mountain biking. They join Rowing Canada, Rugby Canada, Athletics Canada and Swimming Canada as sports with their national teams, or key components of it, based on the Island.

“The mountain-bike trails here are so phenomenal and you can ride outside all year,” said Pendrel, a native of New Brunswick, who switched from the University of Victoria Triathlon Club to mountain biking to such great effect.

“The Bear Mountain trails being developed are not just for elites, but they will also be a huge community asset. There will be skill-level tracks for the national team athletes and flow tracks for those of all abilities,” added the 2007 Pan Am and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, and two-time Olympian, who was fourth at Beijing 2008.

“We can’t wait until the Canada Cup on March 5 to showcase what we’ve got on Bear Mountain.”

Meanwhile, noted Aussie coach Jonathan Hall is the newly appointed head coach of the Triathlon Canada Performance Centre based in Victoria.

He is in charge of the Canadian U-23 program and will also conduct training for senior international athletes based on the Island. Hall comes from his previous position as performance leader for USA Triathlon. He was also the former assistant coach of the Aussie national team and the head triathlon coach at the Victorian State Institute of Sport in Australia, where he developed several Olympic and world championship medallists. He is married to Erin Densham, bronze medallist for Australia at the 2012 London Olympics, who will train with the Hall’s Canadian group in Victoria.

Libby Burrell, high-performance director for Triathlon Canada, said Hall “is a proven performer . . . having him on Canadian soil is a huge win for our program . . . he will help Canada develop medal contending athletes.”

The Island is already well known in triathlon, with the likes of Olympic champion Simon Whitfield and Ironman Hawaii world champions Peter Reid and Lori Bowden famously based here during their careers, as well as the likes of Rio Olympic-hopefuls Kirsten Sweetland and Ellen Pennock.

The national team’s official move to Victoria formalizes things. As part of the deal with the City of Victoria, Triathlon Canada will receive office space at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

“This will provide another outstanding opportunity to showcase our region as the best place in Canada for athletes and their support teams to train and prepare for high performance competition around the world,” said Hugh MacDonald, executive director of Sport Host Victoria.

“Our region has earned a reputation for being a centre for sport excellence and the home of many world champions. This is as a result of leaders in our community with the vision to create centres such as the Rugby Centre of Excellence in Langford, the National Rowing Centre at Elk Lake, the National Mountain Biking Centre at Bear Mountain and the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence at Camosun College. Now with Triathlon Canada and the City of Victoria creating this partnership, we have seven national sport offices on southern Vancouver Island.”

Hall is in the midst of conducting his first national triathlon camp at Saanich Commonwealth Place and on roads across the region.

“We want this program to consistently deliver,” Hall said.

Story by: Cleeve Dheenshaw