Catharine Pendrel is picking a good time to emerge from a spell of mediocrity that followed the best season of her career.
The 36-year-old Kamloops resident placed third in the women’s elite cross-country division at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Mountain Bike World Cup race in Mont-Saint-Anne, Que., on Sunday.
“I felt really strong,” Pendrel told KTW. “I had a good start and was able to move into a top-three position quite early in the race. That definitely helps, to get out ahead of traffic. A little positioning thing was the reason I lost contact with the top girls.”
The bronze-medal victory marked the prolific rider’s 40th trip to the World Cup podium.
Pendrel finished in 1:19:04, one minute and 14 seconds behind gold medallist Yana Belomoina of Ukraine and 30 seconds back of Pauline Ferrand Prevot, the silver medallist from France.
The Clif Pro Team member is rediscovering the form and confidence that helped her win bronze at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, trending in the right direction ahead of the women’s UCI Mountain Bike World Championship, slated for Sept. 9 in Cairns, Australia.
“It takes a little while to maybe reset your goals and focus and get everything dialled,” said Pendrel, who also won the overall World Cup title in 2016. “There were some people who left last season unsatisfied and looking to go push themselves early on.
“It’s nice to be back in the mix.”
Pendrel had a slow start to the 2017 World Cup circuit.
She was in third place and feeling strong at stop No. 1 in Nové Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, on May 20 when she twisted a chain and punctured a tire, setbacks that cost her about four minutes and led to a 21st-place finish.
The New Brunswick native placed 14th in Albstadt, Germany, on May 28, overexerting herself early in the race before crashing and sputtering down the stretch.
Kicking the mental hangover was proving tough.
“That’s what I’ve found with the last two Olympics,” said Pendrel, who placed ninth at the 2012 Games in London. “One went poorly and one went amazingly, but both are just such high-energy-investment seasons. It’s hard to bring that same amount of energy to the next season.”
She seems to have found a spark in the last month.
Pendrel placed 10th at stop No. 4 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on July 8, an improvement on her 16th-place finish at the third stop in Vallnord, Andorra, on July 2, and won silver at the women’s Canadian Mountain Bike Championship in Canmore, Alta., on July 23.
“It’s positive to know my form is there and I’m riding well technically,” she said.
Pendrel will be globetrotting over the next month on a trip that will go a long way in determining how she looks back at 2017.
She will not win her fourth overall World Cup title, sitting 11th in the standings with one event remaining, but a third world championship victory is still up for grabs.
As of Sunday night, Pendrel was ranked sixth in the world among elite women’s cross-country riders.
If she is ranked among the top eight heading into world championship week, then she will bolster her chances of medalling by virtue of front-row starting position.
Pendrel can solidify her spot among the top eight in the world with strong results at the Windham Pro event in Windham, New York, on Aug. 12 and at the last stop on the World Cup circuit in Val Di Sole, Italy, on Aug. 26.
“I’ll be aiming for the podium and looking for as many points as possible,” Pendrel said.
Pendrel’s world championship victories came three years apart, in 2011 and 2014.
Riders such as Belomoina, who is running away with the overall World Cup title, are standing in the way of the Canadian’s hat-trick.
“I know it’s going to be a big challenge,” Pendrel said. “There are a couple girls that are exceptional right now. They’ll be very hard to beat.
“But I feel more positive than I did a couple weeks ago.”