Words: Colin Meagher
The East Coast has been hammered with rain all summer long, and it seems to have a particular affinity for World Cups held here in Canada. But with the rain, eastern Canada’s technical trails shine in all their glory: roots, rocks, and mud. It’s everything that makes most Europeans cringe.
Today began dry for the women, and as predicted, Margarita Fullana was full gas on the first climb. But the reigning world champion tends to pack it in when you add water to anything technical, and the soaking the venue received on Friday had saturated the trails enough that Fullana was blown off the pace as soon as the course entered the woods. Catharine Pendrel grabbed the reins, stalked by Irina Kalentieva, Willow Koerber, Mary McConneloug, and Lene Byberg.
With Fullana out of the race (she DNF’d, pulling out in lap two), and McConneloug and Koerber too far back to be a threat, the trio of Pendrel, Kalentieva, and Byberg started to get sorted out. For a lap it was Pendrel up front, with Kalentieva and Byberg off her pace. But Pendrel had gone a wee bit too hard in lap two, and while not blown, she was definitely having to do a some damage control, and began to slip back a bit. Kalentieva was only too happy to take the top spot, but Byberg not only climbs well, but excels in technical terrain. She marked the Ergon rider and in lap four she made a move, putting Kalentieva firmly in the rearview mirror, and mashing the gas pedal down hard. By the end of the race, she held the lead by a margin of 2:35 over the Russian.
Post race, Kalentieva expressed a bit of disappointment, but deemed her performance acceptable: she does well in wet and technical, but she doesn’t relish it the same way that Pendrel, Katerina Nash, or Byberg do; that trio loves those kinds of conditions.
As for Pendrel, while she did well, it was not as smart a race as it could have been. As she put it, “I burned too many matches too soon. I should have held a little back. Third wasn’t what I wanted, but any podium spot is a good spot.”
The rest of the podium was filled out by Elisabeth Osl and Mary McConneloug, back on form and pleased to be back on the podium.
“Man, that race was a blast!” McConneloug said. “I didn’t quite have the legs to go with them in that punchy stuff up top, but it’s great to feel some power again.”
A surprise was Katie Compton, coming in sixth. The former track racer cum ‘cross racer would like to spend more time racing in the dirt, but has had a persistent asthma problem that’s made it difficult to go longer than an hour.
“First I needed a UCI exemption to use an asthma inhaler,” explained Compton. “And that took a while. Now I’ve got one, but the prescription I’m using is supposed to be good for 4 hours, but for me it’s only good for about an hour. Maybe my metabolism? When I get back home we’ll start looking for one that lasts longer.”
Long term, though, the goal is more dirt time for Compton.
Willow Koerber was burning up the track early on, too, but fell back about halfway through the race, finishing two steps off the podium in seventh. It turns out that she suffered a flat.
“Yeah, I weigh so much, you know?” she joked. “It was a bummer, I lost a lot of time. Then went too hard trying to get back into it and I exploded on the last lap. From there it was damage control.”
Georgia Gould was eighth, Heather Irmiger was 11th, and Lea Davison was 12th.
On the overall rankings, with Fullana taking 22nd at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and pulling out in lap two at Bromont, the lead for the World Cup overall gets very interesting, with Lene Byberg taking the top spot by a mere 25 points over Elisabeth Osl and Irina Kalentieva, who are tied for points. Nor is Fullana out of it yet, dangling only 43 points back.