Catharine Pendrel expected to retire from World Cup racing following the 2020 season, but the pandemic may keep her globetrotting into 2021.
“Right now, I don’t think I’d feel the sense of completion if I didn’t see this season and this Olympic quadrennial through,” said Pendrel, a cross-country mountain biker who has competed for Canada in three Olympic Games. “My plan is, at the moment, to keep going until potential for Tokyo next year.”
Pendrel, who turns 40 in September, was well positioned to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, which have been postponed to the summer of 2021.
Haley Smith and Pendrel had already met Cycling Canada criteria to crack the team and there was only one more World Cup event — scheduled for this month in the Czech Republic before it was pre-empted by the pandemic — in which they could have been unseated.
The COVID-19 crisis, judging by what Pendrel has heard, could leave all Canadian riders with a blank slate heading into 2021 in their pursuit the Olympic team spots up for grabs.
“We’ll have two World Cups [in 2021], which will become our Olympic qualifiers,” said Pendrel, an Olympic bronze medallist, two-time world champion and three-time World Cup series champion. “So we’ll have two opportunities to qualify for Tokyo.”
Pendrel can see it both ways.
The situation is unfair to her and Smith, as the good standing they earned may be wiped out, along with the results that had them poised to crack Team Canada.
“But is it fair to send a team to 2021 that is based on 2019? That’s probably not fair,” Pendrel said. “A lot can happen in a year. It could be that somebody new comes into the mix. We have to send the athletes who are most capable of giving the strongest performance for Canada in 2021.”
And Pendrel believes she can be one of them.
If the 2020 World Cup season is to be completed, the schedule will be condensed.
“We do now have a schedule for the fall,” Pendrel said. “It’s ambitious, basically racing every single weekend in five countries all of September and the first few weeks of October. That would be World Cup and World Championships. Of course, that is dependent on North Americans being able to travel to Europe. We don’t know what our quarantine situation will look like. Can you actually perform well at a World Cup if you have to go over and quarantine in a hotel for two weeks before?”
Riders would then have to figure out tricky training and performance schedules for 2021, knowing they must be in top form in time for the World Cup events that double as Olympic qualifiers.
“You want to time your form to have your peak performance at the Olympics, not the events to qualify for the Olympics,” Pendrel said.
“There is no situation that is 100 per cent fair. All of our leaders feel there are still more questions than answers and it’s still so dependent on what happens in the next month or two.”