The rain that spared the gravity set in yesterday's downhill and 4X races was not so kind today—just minutes before the start, it started coming down in buckets.
After a quick pre-lap to sort out the field of 58 women, local favorite Marie Helene Premont lead the bunch into the first full lap. But she was unable to hold off the relentless charge of fellow Canadian, Catharine Pendrel. Seizing the lead somewhere in lap one, Pendrel bit in like a bulldog and refused to let go.
In the field behind her, the bulk of the other favored riders were blown off the back by a combination of the conditions and the technical nature of the track. Marga Fullana, a rider with wicked climbing skills and good handling in the dry, was relegated to 22nd place. Nor was she alone. Only Irina Kalentieva, Katerina Nash and Willow Koerber were able to remain within striking distance of Pendrel in the early portion of the race, with Georgia Gould, Elisabeth Osl, and Lene Byberg dangling just out of range.
Pendrel was just on fire. As she put it, "I really enjoyed this course—even though I kinda slipped in the rock garden (during lap two). It was just so much fun to ride."
American Willow Koerber had one of the best results of her career, finishing fifth. Having spent a significant amount of time training at elevation, which is great for endurance but usually hinders power (you gotta trade off somewhere), the Gary Fisher rider hammered right out of the gate.
"I just kept telling myself on each climb 'You like to suffer,' and that little mantra just kept me on track. It was exciting to see the leaders," said an ecstatic Koerber, "and know that the possibility of winning was there."
But as the race progressed, she was forced to hang on a bit, especially after a hard-charging Lene Byberg passed her in the final lap to seize fourth. Koerber finished 2.26 off the pace, but maintained a firm grip on the fifth podium spot, duplicating her career-best finish. She also finished fifth at Champery, Switzerland, in 2007.
Another surprise was Katerina Nash. Stepping into her first World Cup of the season, the Luna rider pushed her way through the field in the second lap to nudge herself into second. And she kept a solid grip on that spot up until the third lap when Irina Kalentieva slipped past her and she dropped into third—still her best World Cup placing ever.
"It was a nice surprise that I had good legs today," Nash said after the race. "But I think part of it, too, was that I really, really like courses like this. It's the way mountain bike racing should be."
Race winner Pendrel finished in 1:37:42. Former World Champ Kalentieva took second, (01:31), followed by Nash (+01:49), Lene Byberg (+02:09), and Koerber (+02:26).
For Pendrel, the finish—her second World Cup win—moves her to fourth overall in the World Cup standings and should give her a nice confidence boost heading into Bromont next week and the World's shortly thereafter.
Mont-Sainte-Anne Women's XC Results
1. Catharine Pendrel
2. Irina Kalentieva
3. Katerina Nash
4. Lene Byberg
5. Willow Koerber
6. Elisabeth Osl
7. Georgia Gould
8. Maja Wloszczowska
9. Aleksandra Dawidowicz
10. Marie-Helene Premont