Canada enjoys strong Olympic mountain bike prospects

Canadian National Team Coach Dan Proulx is excited about the prospects for his mountain team at the 2012 Olympic Games. For the past four years since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Canadians have been steadily building their mountain bike program, and they head to London with a strong men's and women's squad and solid medal winning chances. The four-person Olympic mountain bike team was announced earlier this week.

"When we finished Beijing, we did a complete revamp of the program and our development program is very strong now," said Proulx of the Canadian Cycling Federation's efforts.

"In Beijing, I remember having a conversation in which we predicted that when we get to London, we'll have six or eight riders who can win," he said.

Of those potential Canadian Cycling winners, several are mountain bikers. Current world champion Catharine Pendrel will race with Emily Batty in the elite women's race. Max Plaxton and Geoff Kabush will compete in the men's race.

Canada is the number one ranked mountain bike program for the women, and in fact, had to make some tough decisions to select the two women to go to London when three women - Pendrel, Batty and Marie-Helene Premont - were worthy candidates.

Pendrel was a sure selection, but it was a tight battle between Batty and previous Olympian Premont for the second spot.

"It's always a tough decision when you have great champions like this. The only thing we were wishing was that we had three spots," said Proulx. "Ultimately it came down to the best potential for Olympic performance for this Olympics."

"Marie-Helene is a great rider and our current success is in part due to her efforts."

With top-10 World Cup finishers in both the men's and women's teams, the Canadians have a real chance of being at the front together at the Olympics and having a chance to ride as a team.

"Working together is something we've practiced," said Proulx. "Both riders on the men's and women's side are good at working together and are experienced tactically, so if it becomes that kind of race, we are ready."

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.