By Sue George in Bromont, Québec
Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB Team) won her first-ever World Cup in Bromont, Québec on Sunday in extremely muddy and treacherous conditions due to rain the night before and throughout the elite women's race. Finishing in front of friends and family just weeks before the Olympic Games, the win was extra special for the Canadian Pendrel.
"I woke up this morning and felt really good, so I knew I had to go for it," said Pendrel. "It was muddy but it was lots of fun."
What was on the minds of most of the top women was preventing injury prior to competing in Beijing, China, this month. Many made references to riding conservatively and having to catch a plane in the next few days. The women raced four laps on a 4.85km course which was shortened by 700m due to the day's conditions.
Pendrel and her compatriot Marie Helene Premont swapped places from the previous weekend's World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne.
"It was very wet, and I was very careful - especially on the downhills," said Premont. "Before the start, I asked myself if I would race or not. I just want to enjoy myself before the Olympics."
Premont is now enjoying a two-week a rest at home before the Olympics. "I'm going to Beijing with confidence," she said.
Behind Premont was Katerina Nash (Luna Women's MTB Team), Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Racing) and Georgia Gould (Luna MTB Women's Team).
"I love this kind of challenge - these conditions," said Nash, who ran a few uphills because it was faster than riding. "I tried not to make too many mistakes. It was a great ride for me."
Byberg and Gould battled between themselves behind Nash. They stayed together for awhile, but then Byberg steadily pulled away.
"This race was not a priority for me right now," said Gould, with an eye toward the Olympic Games. "I was conservative. I took it easy in the trees. I didn't want to get hurt. I was going pretty slowly on the first few laps, but overall I was feeling strong and working hard on the climbs."
Although she was listed on the start list, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa did not take the start due to a stomach ailment.
Julien Absalon (Orbea) won the elite men's cross country race ahead of Lukas Flückiger (Athleticum) and Adam Craig (Team Giant).