Posted by Editoress on 08/20/16
Canada's Catharine Pendrel made one of the most amazing comebacks in mountain bike history to win the bronze medal in Women's Mountain Bike on Saturday. She was followed across the line in fourth place by team mate Emily Batty. Jenny Rissveds of Sweden won the gold medal and Maja Wloszczowska of Poland took the silver. Jenny Rissveds of Sweden won the gold medal and Maja Wloszczowska of Poland took the silver.
Pendrel got caught in a crash at the end of the start loop before the riders headed out for six laps of the Olympic course, dropping to 25th out of the 29 starters and over 50 seconds back. The crash also affected her derailleur and she had to ride the first climb in the only gear that would work, before stopping at the pits to get it fixed.
She quickly went to work reeling in the riders in front and was up to 12th by the second lap. By the midpoint of the race Pendrel was up to eighth and had joined the group containing Batty that was chasing the leaders. When Batty attacked the chase group, Pendrel bridged across and then attacked on her own to move into fourth and then third as the Swiss rider Jolanda Neff tired.
Pendrel then surged to within 20 seconds of Wloszczowska and the silver medal before slowing slightly in the last lap and suffering a small crash. Batty also surged and came within two seconds of catching Pendrel on the finish line.
"It's unbelievable," said Pendrel. "Before the race I would have been happy with my career if I didn't have an Olympic medal, but I'm sure happy that I do! It's such a feeling, and we've worked so hard for this for so many years, with my coach and my team and my husband, that it's just amazing that it came together."
"At the beginning of the race, getting in the crash and then my shifting stopped working ... I just thought 'everything is going wrong!'. But I'm used to having bad starts and I know I can work my way up through the field. We had prepared for every scenario, and Dan [Proulx, national coach] was great at reminding me that in La Bresse [French World Cup] I went from a minute-forty back to a silver medal, so I knew that I could close the gap and that's what I set about doing today. It was a best case scenario coming into the finish because I knew that if I wasn't bronze that Emily would be. I almost took myself out of bronze at the finish [in a crash], but I just so happy that it all worked out in the end."
"As much as I wanted to get a medal for myself, I also wanted to help Team Canada. It's exciting and it bolsters all of us when we do well. In cycling we have such a strong program and I feel it is only getting better. We're a strong nation and cycling is definitely a Canadian sport. We seen this success and we're going to keep building on it."
"I'm so filled with mixed emotions right now," admitted Batty. "After London's experience with a broken collarbone to now, finishing literally ten feet off the podium ... it's some heartbreak. So I'm happy, but also really sad."
"My preparation was amazing, and I'm so thankful for the [Cycling Canada] federation and especially my husband, Adam, who's been coaching me all this way. I raced clean and I felt strong. It went pretty much according to plan and I was in the top five off the start loop, so from that point on I knew I was going to be a contender for the medals."
Canadian national coach Dan Proulx said, "It's been 14 years in the making for this medal. It's a very special day and a long hard road to get here. Catharine did an incredible ride today and Emily was amazing too. It was incredible to have two riders in the hunt."
"When Catharine crashed it was kind of like a nightmare and a dream all in one. I didn't think it was over because Catharine has recovered from gaps as much as a minute-forty before. So, it's possible but at and Olympic Games ... unlikely that you are going to come back to the medals if you suffer any kind of mishap. So that was a pretty stunning ride from Catharine, but if it hadn't been Catharine it was gong to be Emily. I think that shows the strength of our program, and we have medal potential for the future as well."
"In the early laps I was just saying 'keep it smooth, keep the leg speed up and keep driving'. I told her that I've seen her eat gaps like this for breakfast. I really felt she had a chance to come back."
"Ironically, on the last lap with less than a kilometre to go the very last thing I said to her was 'drive smoothly and keep it steady', and then she had a tumble! But she had enough gap to recover and if she didn't, we had insurance behind with Emily."
"An incredible ride for both of them, and it's a privilege to be with riders of that quality. It's amazing."
More from Catharine Pendrel:
"This is the total opposite experience to London. I felt so relaxed and confident going into this race, even though I went into London as a much more dominant rider. But I felt more capable and confident coming into this because I knew how to perform on the day."
"I definitely knew Emily was there. I looked back and saw her coming, and I know she has a better sprint than me. But if I had crashed then she would have got the bronze, and I would have been happy for her because she raced extremely well. it's a tough position for her to be in, but she did an exceptional race."
"My shifting stopped working and the whole first climb I had to do in one gear, and then I stopped in the [tech] zone and my mechanic fixed it right away."
"I just rubbed wheels at the start and went down. definitely it wasn't ideal, but I've been in positions where I've had a bad start and I can remember Beijing [Olympics] where I was 20th off the start and I was able to get fourth. So I knew I could get into a medal position. I could see that the girls weren't that far ahead and the gap was closable."
"[The silver medal] was definitely close, but I made a couple of mistakes. I'm happy with the way I rode; it was a complete race - not a perfect race - but I had the form. it would have been interesting to see if I had no problems what I could have done. I feel I would have been fighting with those girls for the front, but I'm happy with the race I did, so I'm very happy with bronze. Rarely does a race go according to plan, so you make the best of it and stay positive and always fight for it, and that's what I did."
- This could quite likely be Sabine Spitz's last XC race. The gold, silver and bronze medal winner crashed in training before Mont-Ste-Anne and the wound became infected this week, requiring surgery. She was able to start, and finished 18th, but likely will need more surgery. At the remarkable age of 44, Spitz was a medal contender before her injury. We have been told she will focus on marathon type events in the future.
- We can tell you now that there was a loonie buried at the finish line (our editor supplied it). There was also a twoonie buried at the bottom of the start ramp of the BMX track.
Catharine Pendrel had three of the fast lap splits of the race, on the second, third and fifth laps. Wloszczowska had the fastest lap, a 14:38 in Lap 4, one second ahead of Rissveds. Pendrel was the only other rider to record a sub-15 minute time (14:53 in Lap 2)
- This the first Olympics since 2004 where Canada has won 2 medals. Lori-Ann Muenzer won Gold in the women's Sprint and Marie-Hélène Premont silver in the Women's Mountain Bike