Catharine Pendrel has come a long way in four years.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the native of Fredericton was hoping for a top-five finish in the mountain bike event. She placed fourth, just nine seconds out of third, and was ecstatic.
Now, as she heads into the London Olympics, she is the favourite to win gold, and fourth place won’t feel good at all.
“This year, definitely, I know that I’m capable of a top three for sure,” Pendrel said Monday. “I know I’m capable of having a really great race. I know it takes a lot of factors to fall into place on the day. I think we’ve done the groundwork to have a great day on Saturday.”
Pendrel has been a dominant force in mountain biking over the last couple of years. She is ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the world championship last year and taking the International Cycling Union Mountain Bike World Cup this year. She also knows the London course on Hadleigh Farm well, having won an event here last year.
Also riding for Canada will be Emily Batty of Oshawa, Ont., who is ranked 15th in the world and placed second at a World Cup event this year.
The men’s side consists of Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, B.C., who is competing in his third Olympics, and Max Plaxton of Victoria.
Unlike World Cup events, in which more than 100 athletes compete, the field at the Olympics is much smaller.
The course is considered fast and open, with few trees to block the wind. It’s also somewhat narrow, making passing tough and a fast start critical. Racers can carry small tools to fix their bike, but if something major happens, they have to carry their bike to one or two tech zones and hope the problem can be fixed fast enough to not lose too much time. Races typically last about 90 minutes. The women’s event is Saturday and the men go Sunday.