Cathy Pendrel of Canada started as one of the pre-race favourites for the Commonwealth Games mountain bike event and she was off the front with a 30-second lead inside of half a lap of the Cathkin Braes course.
In a small field of 22 starters from 12 nations, the Canadian pulled clear with six other riders and quickly left them. After one lap, she led Becca Henderson of Australia by 34 seconds who was closely followed by Emily Batty (Canada), Alice Barnes (England), Annie Last (England), Kate Fluker (New Zealand) and local favourite Lee Craigie (Scotland). From there on the gaps stretched and stretched as the laps ticked over.
By half distance – three laps – Pendrel could have stopped for a pot of tea and a plate of shortbread such was her lead (over a minute). Behind, a duo had formed and had dropped the others. The pair comprised Pendrel’s Canadian team mate Batty, who worked with Henderson, each benefitting from the other’s efforts in the windy conditions high above Glasgow and the Clyde valley.
Ahead though, Pendrel was riding with such fierce determination, precision and consistency it looked like the only thing that would stop her was a mechanical or hunger knock. Neither transpired.
What suspense there was in the race boiled down to a battle for silver and bronze between Batty the Canadian and the younger Australian, Henderson.
Several times Batty tried to gap the Australian, pressuring her on the climbs, but hadn’t managed to shake her off. She tried again on the final lap on the long switchback climb and finally cracked Henderson, resisting the Aussie’s return and beating her to the silver medal by 12 seconds. By that point Pendrel had already crossed the line, Maple Leaf flag aloft, over a minute earlier.
Pendrel was happy but not too surprised by the outcome, because both she, her coach and her team mate knew that she was in great form.
“I had to go pretty deep at the national championships last week,” she explained, “so I knew how hard I could go and sustain. Anyone who knows me and who has seen me race knows that basically I like to go out front and race hard. When I saw the course and rode it, I wasn’t sure it would split up as much as it did, but when I got a gap, I just kept pushing.”
Pendrel was also helped by the time checks she was getting from the coach.
“That helped because it meant that I didn’t have to ride flat-out through the technical parts – the Broken Biscuit section had one good line through it – and it meant I could take a bit of care to avoid puncturing.”
There’s no time for Pendrel and her team mate Batty to party though, they are flying back to Canada tomorrow (Wednesday) “and I don’t want to be flying back home to Canada destroyed!”
Commonwealth Games cross-country mountain bike, women
1. Catharine Pendrel (Canada) 30.2km in 1-39-29
2. Emily Batty (Canada) at 1-10
3. Becca Henderson (Australia) at 1-22
4. Annie Last (England) at 3-05
5. Alice Barnes (England) at 3-58
6. Karen Hanlen (New Zealand) at 4-02
7. Lee Craigie (Scotland) at 4-07
8. Kate Fluker (New Zealand) at 5-27
9. Beth Crumpton (England) at 6-35
10. Mariske Strauss (South Africa) at 7-48
Commonwealth Games road race on Sunday will be Emma Pooley's final race
Track, road and mountain bike: when the cycling events are on in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (July 23 to