Don’t count out the veteran yet. Catharine Pendrel proved on Saturday she still has what it takes.
The 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist, back on the Island trails where she learned to ride as a University of Victoria student, won the third annual PowerAde Canada Cup elite women’s mountain bike race on Bear Mountain.
The 37-year-old two-time world champion is the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medallist, but is bypassing the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and is non-committal about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
At this stage of her career, Pendrel said: “It’s a year-to-year thing for me now.”
And with a lighter attitude. Because of her stature, Pendrel was allowed to design her own racing jersey this year, and chose a design that included rainbows and unicorns because young kids, including her nieces and nephews on the Island, love it.
“It keeps it fun,” Pendrel said.
Pendrel posted a winning time of one hour, 21 minutes, 25 seconds in the 27-racer elite women’s event Saturday.
Second was Bear Mountain-based Haley Smith in 1:22:19 and Haley Batten was third in 1:22:22. Emily Batty, fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was fourth in the Canada Cup in 1:22:43.
The rising Smith, considered Pendrel’s heir apparent, and Batty will represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games, which begin with the opening ceremony on Wednesday. “It’s exciting to watch Haley develop as a rider,” Pendrel said. “She is so dedicated. She is an awesome representative for the Canadian team.”
Andrew L’Esperance won the 34-racer Canada Cup elite men’s race on the Bear in 1:26:50. He held off runner-up Leandre Bouchard (1:26:52) of Alma, Que., an Olympic veteran, who will race for Canada on April 12 in the Games. Peter Disera survived two flats to finish third in 1:27:18.
The Canada Cup also featured elite junior and U-17 racers attacking the Bear’s tactical course. It’s all part of the Bear Mountain Bike Festival, which includes the Russ Hay’s XC short-track race and Kids Bike Day today.
The Canadian mountain biking team is based on Bear Mountain under national team head coach Dan Proulx of Victoria.
“It’s about building a legacy, where the older athletes pass on the team culture,” said Proulx, who departs on Monday to Gold Coast with Batty, Smith and Bouchard.