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Pendrel hopes to go with the flow at Bear Mountain Canada Cup

Posted on March 2, 2016

Two-time world champion Catharine Pendrel, a big Canadian hope for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, says the new course on Bear Mountain reflects what modern mountain biking is all about.

“This track is about the new style of mountain bike racing,” said the native of New Brunswick, who got her start in the sport on the Island riding the adjacent trails of Hartland.

“Bear Mountain is a flow track.”

That’s flow as in flowing. The mountain bikers of today want to move. And move fast.

They will do that Saturday in the Canada Cup race, an Olympic points qualifier for Rio, that will feature the best racers in the country. They include current world women’s No. 2 Pendrel, fellow Canadian, world No. 7 and 2015 Pan Am Games champion Emily Batty of Toronto, and Canadian men’s Rio hope Raphael Gagne of Quebec City.

The women’s elite race is at 1 p.m. and the men’s elite race at 3 p.m. The men will race six loops of the 5.5-kilometre Bear Mountain course and the women five. Fans are encouraged to line the course, with the best viewing area just a few steps below the golf pro shop.

The Olympic hopefuls will get a taste of the real deal this weekend. That’s the point.

“Our Bear Mountain course is constructed very similar to Rio’s Olympic course,” said national team head coach Dan Proulx of Victoria.

“We looked at what they did and tried to replicate that. Rio’s course is flowing and fast, and so is ours here on the mountain.”

The national team training centre is now officially located at Bear Mountain under Proulx. Numerous riders from Ontario and Quebec have relocated to Victoria because of that to train here.

The form charts for Rio 2016 are pretty much formulated. The training centre is looking beyond that.

“The national centre is really about developing our young talent for Tokyo 2020 and 2024,” noted Proulx.

The goal for Pendrel, of course, is more immediate. After fading to a disappointing ninth at the 2012 London Olympics, following a near-miss fourth place at Beijing in 2008, the 35-year-old knows Rio may be her last chance to fulfill her Olympic ambition. Now residing in Kamloops with her husband, she is happy to return this week to the city where it all began for her and where she touches base often.

“I look forward to the opportunity to race at home,” said Pendrel, the 2007 Pan Am Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion.

“Rio is five months away and training is going well, although I have a slight injury.”

She broke her thumb earlier in training but said: “I plan to race Saturday.”

Story by: Cleeve Dheenshaw