Catharine Pendrel has her sights set on winning a gold medal for Canada at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Champery, Switzerland. Pendrel finished second overall in the 2011 World Cup and is ranked number one by the UCI.
Pendrel spoke to the media on Thursday, just two days before the elite women's cross country race, which takes place on Saturday afternoon. She fielded questions in both French and English.
"I'd love to win it. I feel good and I feel confident on the course. I'm looking forward to the race and I hope I can put it together on the day. I've had a good Worlds the past few years, but never a great Worlds."
Her best previous world championship finish was fourth last year in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada. Prior to that, she'd finished sixth twice.
Coming into the Worlds, Pendrel is in good shape. She won the last two World Cup races of the season - both of which were held in the past month.
When asked about the technical course in Champery, she said, "The course is one of the more difficult ones. It has a lot of roots and you have to keep your focus about you. Even though there are two significant climbs, a lot of the course is flat. You have to climb strong, but you have to be focused in the woods and that you're always getting back on your pedals. I think physically, technically and mentally, it's a challenging course."
Pendrel did not seem too fussed about the Hell's Gate drop that is on the course's A line. "The drop was on a lot of people's minds coming into it. It's a skillset most cross country riders don't have, but I think everyone worked on it and now has it figured out. I think everyone will be doing the A line."
She predicted that the woods between the drop and the subsequent climb will be decisive in the race. "It will be easy for someone to crash and lose focus and lose quite a bit of time."
Tactis will play a role too. "Every race is tactical and the closer you are to the front of the race, the more technical it is. Everyone wants to win this race. You not only have to have the best legs, but you have to keep your head and know when to attack."
She is not afraid to make the race from the front. "Different riders have different strengths and ways they like to ride. If I have the legs to go away early on, I'll use that.
Pendrel will be keeping her eye on Irina Kalentieva (Russia), last year's world champion Maja Wloszczowska and Eva Lechner (Italy) as the other favorites. Other than Julie Bresset, who raced and won the Under 23 women's race, Pendrel had the fastest lap time among the women in the team relay on Wednesday, something that bodes well for her chances, although not all the women participated.
"In the team relay, I had a clean run, no traffic, no crashes, I don't know about the others, but I can take some confidence from that."
"The last two years I haven't had a great performance here (in the World Cups - ed.), it's true, but I know why I didn't perform that well here in the past," she said. "One year, we had Worlds in Australia just beforehand so there was a lot of travel, and last year I had a fall in training and I lost my head for the course. I also let the pressure of wearing the World Cup leader's jersey get to me."
She noted that the course's start loop is better in that it is more open this year, but she thinks the course will still quickly split the riders into small groups of two and three.
When asked about whether the track was better for 29ers or 26ers, she said, "My opinion is that wheel size gets talked about more than riders legs, and I think that's what it really comes down to."