MTB World Cup: Catherine Pendrel wins her first cross country World Cup

Premont second, Nash third

Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB Team) won her first-ever World Cup in extremely muddy and treacherous conditions due to rain the night before and throughout the elite women's race. Finishing in front of friends and family just weeks before the Olympic Games, the win was extra special for the Canadian Pendrel.

"I woke up this morning and felt really good, so I knew I had to go for it," said Pendrel. "It was muddy but it was lots of fun."

What was on the minds of most of the top women was preventing injury prior to competing in Beijing, China this month. Many made references to riding conservatively and having to catch a plane in the next few days. The women raced four laps on a 4.85km course which was shortened by 700m due to the day's conditions.

Pendrel and her compatriot Marie Helene Premont swapped places from last weekend's World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Premont rode a conservative race in response to the conditions to finish in second place.

"It was very wet, and I was very careful - especially on the downhills," said Premont. "Before the start, I asked myself if I would race or not. I just want to enjoy myself before the Olympics."

Premont will enjoy a two-week a rest at home before the Olympics. "I'm going to Beijing with confidence," she said.

Pendrel and Premont got a gap together off the front from the start. Pendrel seemed smoother over the technical sections and also looked powerful on the climbs. Pendrel opened up a gap by the end of the first lap she would continue to extend until the finish.

The slippery conditions quickly separated the women, and most of the top finishers rode alone throughout the race. Many McConneloug (Kenda Seven) had a fantastic beginning, riding initially in third position, but the conditions got to her and she fell back to finish in 12th place.

"I had such a good start," said McConneloug, who was spotted running many sections her fellow competitors were riding. "Then I was so all over the place in the mud and I got nervous - that's the worst thing you want to do in the mud. You start getting rigid and then you can't ride, and you make more mistakes.

"My result today is indicative of the stress I've undergone this week in preparation for Beijing," added McConneloug. "I'm getting on a plane at 6:00 am tomorrow to go to California for a week and I haven't packed yet." From California McConneloug will head to South Korea, and finally, Beijing for the race on August 22.

At the end of the first lap, Nash was riding comfortably in third position, a place she would hold for the duration of the race.

Byberg and Gould were battling between themselves behind Nash. They stayed together for awhile, but then Byberg steadily pulled away.

"This race was not a priority for me right now," said Gould, with an eye toward the Olympic Games. "I was conservative. I took it easy in the trees. I didn't want to get hurt. I was going pretty slowly on the first few laps, but overall I was feeling strong and working hard on the climbs."

American Willow Koerber (Subaru / Gary Fisher) put in a strong performance after a tough rest of the season to finish sixth. Her technical skills shone as she rode smoothly over wet roots and rocks that had many others dabbing or running.

Near the end of the race she challenged Gould for the fifth and final place on the podium, but Gould triumphed in the end.

"Willow would catch me by the end of the lap [which was quite technical - ed.], and I'd pull away from her on the climbs," said Gould. "She just glides through and makes it look so easy. Katerina is the same way."

"I could ride most of the singletrack," said a contented Koerber, who seemed to float over the slippery, technical trails. "You know how those races are - there is always something going on - sticks stuck in your cleats and you can't get into gear, but everyone deals with the same thing so you just have to stay calm and not freak out."

"I wanted to feel fine," said Koerber. "I've had a really awful year and had to take a bunch of time off. I'm just finally starting to feel like I can ride my bike again, and I wanted to take advantage of that since there are not many races left this season."

American Lea Davison (Trek / VW) logged her best World Cup finish, for the second weekend in a row. "It was exactly like Vermont when it pours rain there," said Davison, who finished 10th. "I had to relax out there and ride the downhills smoothly. I had to become one with the mud. I got 11th last weekend and before that, my best was 19th."

Although she was listed on the start list, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa did not take the start.

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com

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