New Brunswick

Catharine Pendrel developing the next generation of Canadian riders

Olympic bronze medalist Catharine Pendrel is doing what she can to make sure that when she retires, there will be a new crop of talented young mountain bikers to take her place.

Olympic bronze medallist is passing on her knowledge and experience to 3 young mountain bikers

Catharine Pendrel started Pendrel Racing Development in an effort to support up-and-coming riders. (Kevin Light/Pendrel Racing Development)

Olympic bronze medallist Catharine Pendrel is doing what she can to make sure that when her time on the bike is done, there will be a new crop of talented young mountain bikers to take her place.

The three-time Olympian has started Pendrel Racing Development, which is supporting three up-and-coming mountain bikers.

Pendrel and her husband Keith Wilson started putting the team together in October to help riders who needed mentorship.

"We always had it in the back of our mind of wanting to support some of the riders that we see coming up because we know how difficult it is to find support in those early years," said the New Brunswick-born biker.

Holden Jones, Emily Unterberger and Elyse Nieuwold will have the advantage of drawing from the knowledge of one of Canada's most accomplished mountain bikers. The first two athletes are from B.C., while Nieuwold is from Ontario.

Canada's Catharine Pendrel celebrates bronze in the women's cross-country mountain bike at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday, Aug. 20. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Pendrel, 37, said she picked these three to work with because of the potential she saw in them.

"You can kind of tell when you see an athlete that they have the work ethic, they have the drive, they have the rapid improvement," she said.

"It's those athletes that you really see glimmers of potential in their riding and what they could be."

The little things

When Pendrel started her racing career in her hometown of Harvey Station, she didn't have a formal mentor who had high-level experience in mountain biking.

Instead, she relied on the guidance of her brother and connecting with the right people that helped advance her career. Now, she hopes to do the same thing for the three riders.

Pendrel has been sending the riders race-planning sheets before they race, and has gotten them to set goals. She's teaching them how to plan a race week so as to balance rest, work and stress.

"It's just little things like that, just being here to answer questions and help with travel and stuff like that," said Pendrel. 

She also held a camp for the three racers in Kamloops where they worked on racing skills, and met with Canadian national team members.

Emily Unterberger, Holden Jones, Elyse Nieuwold will have the benefit of learning from one of Canada's top mountain bikers. (Pendrel Racing Development)

"You learn so much as a racer and a lot of time you learn it by trial and error, so it's just helping other people get to that higher level with less error," said Pendrel.

Most of all, Pendrel wants these athletes to know that there are people out there who believe in them.

"If they want to work hard for something, there are going to be people who step up and want to support them to pursue their goal," said Pendrel.

No immediate plans of calling it a career

Pendrel is balancing this new development team with her own racing career, though she recently experienced a setback. Pendrel broke her humerus, and will miss the next mountain biking world cup races.

Pendrel will continue to train, but for the first time in 16 years, the three-time world cup winner will have a bit of a summer break.

Catharine Pendrel, who was raised in Harvey Station, N.B., crosses the finish line Sept. 6, 2014, to win the Women Elite Cross-country class of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway. (The Associated Press)

"I'll be training to what my capacity is, but also making sure I get to enjoy actually being home for the summer too," said Pendrel.

As for the upcoming 2020 Olympics, Pendrel still plans to compete.

"If I can still be a medal contender for Canada, I should be out there," said Pendrel.

About the Author

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.