Her striped jersey left a rainbow trail in her wake as Luna Pro team rider Catharine Pendrel rocketed past this season, off the front of the women’s races.
Going into the Olympics a medal seemed a near certainty, barring disaster. She had won five of the seven World Cups, including two of the last three. She was looking fast, fit and fierce. Most, including herself, considered her the woman to beat at both the Olympics and the world championships.
Then, suddenly she fell flat on both of the two most important days of the year, finishing three minutes back in the Olympic race, and 4:51 off the winning time in the world championships.
Upon reflection, Pendrel knows what she did wrong and how she will prevent making those mistakes next season. “I think I was too focused too early in the off season,” Pendrel told Singletrack.com, and it sealed her late-season fate.
After podiums in all three of the first World Cup races, including wins in the second and third, Pendrel’s body lost its kick by the end of the season and she watched as women flowed past her in the Olympic and world championship races, unable to respond to attacks or set the unmatchable pace that she had set so consistently this year. “The season started the way I wanted it to, but I feel I stopped progressing mid-summer,” she said.
Admitting to disappointment, Pendrel has heard loud and clear the lesson not to go into the season too strong. “I’ll take some lessons from it and move on, recharging for next year.”
Her plan to prevent the same from happening next year is threefold.
To start, next year she vows to wait to turn the cranks. “I’m going to push my ski season as long as possible this year and make sure I’m creating some more off-the-bike goals.” Like many cyclists, Pendrel uses cross-country skiing as cross-training, which requires blood to pump aerobically to muscles throughout the body, conditioning the heart far beyond the demands of cycling.
That full-body blood flow is great for training the body to use oxygen efficiently, and athletes that skate ski have some of the highest max VO2 values in the world.
Her body can put that training to great use when using primarily leg muscles in mountain biking. Training off the bike also helps prevent reaching peak fitness too early in the season.
Second, she will make sure to keep herself excited. “In the race season I’d like to mix in some different types of races and venues, keep it fun and new.”
Pretty straightforward concept. Keeping the fun alive will allow good training to go farther.
Finally, she will spend some time developing the next talent. Luna Chix Pro Team has signed the Canadian for another four years, and the young cyclocross powerhouse Teal Stetson-Lee has been getting top-10 results in domestic cross-country and endurance races with the Chix. With no shortage of talent, Stetson-Lee could not find a better resource to develop her racing skills than with the Luna Chix.
Enthusiastic about her potential, Pendrel vowed to spend time next season working with “our up-and-coming Luna rider Teal Stetson-Lee and some of the young Canadian talents.”
Riders Pendrel considers in that pool of talents will be fortunate to get some of the best mentorship possible.
Despite her disappointment that her results at the Olympics and the world championships fell short of her confidence, when Pendrel reflects on her season, she acknowledges that moment that most stood out was a breakthrough when she overcame one of her weaknesses. “I was happy with Mont-Saint-Anne where for the first time ever I was the racer who could put out my fastest lap together on the last lap,” she said. “Typically I’m a get away early and hold it kind of rider.”
With the World Cup title, it’s hard to imagine the Canadian would be unhappy with her season, but she will take the lessons from the final races and take a new approach next year.
Emily spent her infancy in the back of a women’s team van while the team built wheels around her. She spent part of her pre-teen years in Europe following the major European mountain, road and gravity races and touring cycling product factories. College was the first time she lived in a home without a frame building shop in her garage or basement. Her favorite style of riding is getting lost in singletrack trail networks and taking her time finding her way back.