Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Cycling) is off to her first 50-mile cross country mountain bike race in Arizona this weekend at the Whiskey 50. The 2010 UCI World Cup champion is used to going very fast for shorter distances, but is looking forward to seeing how she can do over the longer distance.
"Events like the Whiskey 50 are fun," the 30-year-old Pendrel told Cyclingnews. "It's easier to get to know the people who are just taking up mountain biking or just do it as a lifestyle, not professionally."
Pendrel does have experience going long - she has raced the BC Bike Race, but said this is her first time competing in a single-day long mountain bike race.
"I've done back-to-back long days at the BC Bike Race, but I haven't done 85km in a mountain bike race." Pendrel said she's raced for up to four hours at a time and is expecting the Whiskey 50 to take a similar amount of time as the BC Bike Race stages were shorter, but more technical.
Pendrel got her World Cup racing start last weekend in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, with a solid fourth place finish. She was 2:44 behind winner Ren Chengyuan (Specialized).
Going into this season, Pendrel was optimistic. "It's always the same kinds of feelings every year. You wonder how you came out of the winter and how everybody else came out of the winter," said Pendrel. "I feel good. That first race [at the US Pro XCT] in Fontana went really well."
In 2011, Pendrel will focus on her usual priorities: the World Cup races and the world championships. She'll also compete in select national series events in the US and Canada along with a few more regional events like the Test of Metal, where she can spend time with friends and family nearer to where she lives in Kamloops, British Columbia.
"The World Cup overall is always a secondary goal. My first goal is to ride my best at every race," said Pendrel. "I don't go in with the intention of 'I want to win the overall.' I go in with the intention of being the best rider and maybe that gets me the overall."
Thinking of the Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada, and Windham, New York, United States World Cup rounds in July, Pendrel said, "I love doing the World Cup races in North America because your family can be there. But I love all the races and courses and seeing how everybody is every year."
Pendrel is also looking forward to the Olympic Test event in the United Kingdom. "It will be interesting to see what that looks like in person." After all, it's not all that much more than a year to go until the 2012 Olympic Games.
One thing she's missing in her successful career so far is a medal at the world championships. "It's time that I find out how to get a medal there. I need to figure out how to put everything together on the day."
Her best finish so far was fourth place at Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2010. She was part of a three-woman battle for the silver and bronze medals. Unfortunately for her, she came out fourth.
"I was six seconds from silver, it was so close. That made the race for me. If I had been fourth without such a tight battle, it would have been harder," said Pendrel. "But you know I was there and it came down to some minor mistakes and hopefully, I can reflect upon that and see how to not let that happen again."
This year's mountain bike Worlds will be in Champery, Switzerland. It's a venue Pendrel has previously raced in World Cups "The cross country course is really good. It's one of, if not the most, challenging technical courses out there.
"The course is almost like two separate courses. You have one side that is steep uphill, steep downhill with a rough descent which I think suits me perfectly. The other half is undulating in kind of mucky terrain. Just figuring out how to best put the power down on the undulating terrain with lots of corners is key.
"Hard climbing and technical riding is to my advantage. I'm a good power to weight rider. I can maintain going hard and don't always need the recovery that some people need in sections.
"Plus there is a more technical element they added last year with two very, very sharp switchbacking corners into a drop, which is a fairly intimidating drop. It's very decisive whether you take that line or go around. It adds like 15 seconds per lap if you go around. I didn't ride it last year, but I'm looking forward to trying it this year."
Pendrel is still figuring out what it takes to medal at Worlds. "If I have to adjust my training to be there more on the day of world championships, that's something I will try to do."
The blonde Canadian will also be racing her national championships this summer, where she hopes to defend her title. She's a two-time national champion, but this year's win may be even tougher. "Marie Helen Premont had the title six times before that, and she just announced she's continuing until 2012, so she's got renewed focus. She didn't compete at nationals last year because she had bronchitis."
Pendrel is part of the powerful Luna Women's Pro Cycling Team, which is celebrating its 10th season. She regular races with teammates Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash.
"The 10th year is a fun year for a team. I think we may be the longest running team with one single title sponsor. It's awesome to be a part of this team. The company is doing this because it wants to promote role models for women - it's not just a sales angle. It helps make the team sustainable and look what's come of it? We're the number one team in the world."
Pendrel is in her fourth year with the team.