Four mountain bikers named to Canadian Olympic team

Cycling Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee, announced the nomination of Catharine Pendrel, Emily Batty, Geoff Kabush and Max Plaxton to the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team set to compete at the Olympic Games this summer. The announcement was made in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, in advance of this weekend's UCI World Cup racing.

Canada qualified the maximum two spots for the women's race, and two spots of a maximum of three possible for the men's race.

The Canadian women's team has excelled over the last two years, currently sitting in first place of the UCI Nations standings.

"We're just thrilled to welcome our four intrepid mountain bikers to the nominees for the Canadian Olympic Team," said Mark Tewksbury, Canadian Olympic Team Chef de Mission for London 2012. "Our Team and the excitement about Canada's performance in London grow stronger by the day!"

"Canadian athletes are among the best in the world and we are looking so forward to watching them compete in London," said Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "Congratulations to all four mountain biking nominees; I know you will all continue to give your everything this summer as you ride toward your Olympic dreams."

The Canadian mountain bike program is led by Head Coach, Dan Proulx who has been at the helm of the program for the past four years. During that time, the mountain bike program has been revamped and has improved significantly.

Proulx is proud of the team heading to London. "We have a very strong team. Each of the riders has proven themselves among the best in the World. I am extremely proud of them. I know they will ride with courage in London - inspiring other Canadian mountain bikers to pursue their dreams at the highest level of the sport."

The team is led by Catharine Pendrel (Team Luna Pro). The reigning world champion and four-time consecutive Canadian Champion, will be competitive. Pendrel, who placed fourth in Beijing, enjoyed significant success in London at the Olympic test event, winning the race.

"I am thrilled to be representing Canada at the 2012 Olympics in London, and will do my best to give Canada a performance to cheer for and be proud of," said Pendrel, who is in contention for the UCI World Cup leader's jersey, currently in second place.

Emily Batty (Team Subaru-Trek), the young mountain bike star in the making, has also made the cut thanks to a rapid rise since riding in the elite category. Batty, a four-time U23 Canadian Champion (2007-2010), has enjoyed immediate success on the World Cup scene, finishing eighth in the World Cup standings in her rookie season, last year. This season, Batty rose to the occasion from the first World Cup race, earning her career first podium performance on the UCI World Cup by taking the second place in South Africa.

"This is hopefully the beginning to an amazing path in sport. Not only am I thrilled to represent Canada in my first Olympics, I am confident the Canadian Mountain Bike team will be doing something special in London 2012 this year," said Batty, currently sitting in fifth place of the World Cup standings.

The Olympic nomination for Geoff Kabush (Scott-3RoxRacing) comes with no surprise. The seven-time Canadian Champion is by far the most experienced Canadian mountain biker, and has always risen to the occasion at major events.

"The Olympic Games stands out above all events in the sporting world. This will be my third opportunity to proudly represent Canada, and I feel uniquely prepared for the challenge in 2012. I'm extremely motivated and focused, and I'm heading to London with a lot of confidence. With my experience and the support behind me I ready to perform in the spotlight of the Olympic Games. The Canadian MTB team is the strongest I've ever seen and I'm really excited to be part of it," said Kabush.

Max Plaxton (Specialized Racing USA) is the two-time Canadian Champion in the elite category, and has enjoyed a rise in the last two years, winning in 2011 the USA Pro XCT Series. On the UCI World Cup Tour, Plaxton is consistently progressing higher and higher in the standings, and holds a promising future in the sport.

Earlier at the recent World Cup in La Bresse, France, Plaxton went on to crack the top 10 for the first time.

"It's a huge honor to be selected to the represent Canada in the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games. I've worked extremely hard the last four years to make this goal a reality. I'm excited about both the experience and the challenge of racing the world's best mountain bikers in London," said Plaxton, the top Canadian on the World Cup tour in 23rd place.

Both Kabush and Pendrel have previous Olympic experience. Pendrel finished fourth in her first Olympic Games experience in Beijing, while Kabush has been to two past Olympic Games. He finished ninth in Sydney, and 20th in Beijing.

In the history of mountain bike at the Olympics, Canada won two medals. Alison Sydor won the silver medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, while Marie-Hélène Prémont also earned a silver medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.

The mountain bike races will be held on the last two days of the Olympic Games, on August 11 for the women's race and August 12 for the men's race.

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