World champion Catharine Pendrel takes on new coaching gig

Pendrel talks shift into national coaching, living in Kamloops
Photo from Catharine Pendrel on Facebook.

Of all the local mountain bikers you might find at the Kamloops trailheads, Canadian cross-country legend Catharine Pendrel may just top the list for having the most diverse resume.

After a busy final racing season at the World Cup Circuit and her fourth Olympic Games last year, Pendrel announced she will be joining Cycling Canada as a national team coach this summer.

Pendrel said her schedule will look different as a coach than what she’s used to.

“I will travel less than as a racer but still a considerable amount, with about 12 weeks on the road between racing and training camps,” she said. “The counter is that when I am home, I have no ‘have to’ training so I can be more flexible to focus on family.”

And it’s the many relationships she’s forged within the cycling community that she said she looks forward to continuing in this next chapter of her career.

“Last year I was teammates with Peter Disera at the Olympics and this year I get to coach him, so that’s a fun partnership,” she said. “I am also working with some juniors and U23, so I’m really excited to help their development.”

After growing up in New Brunswick, Pendrel moved to Kamloops in 2006 with her husband Keith Wilson. The move was inspired by a teaching position for Wilson, who has coached Pendrel and other riders to podium finishes at all levels of cycling. 

The couple found Kamloops’ burgeoning trail networks to be an ideal training ground. Pendrel said it was the perfect contrast to the years she spent in Victoria and New Brunswick, where trails were more technical with lots of roots and rocks.

“Kamloops has a ton of climbing and high-speed riding which helped me gain not only fitness, but a wide-ranging skill set,” Pendrel said. “The short winters with great access to skiing for training and then long warm summers are really nice from a training perspective, as I get variety but also great quality training conditions.”

Two years after moving to Kamloops, Pendrel competed in her first Olympics at the 2008 Beijing Games, where she landed herself fourth place. She then returned in 2012, coming in ninth in London, and again in 2016 where she brought home a bronze medal for Canada — even after an early-race crash. 

As her list of accolades grew, so did the riding community and trail offerings in Kamloops.  Pendrel said she spends most of her leisure time in the saddle riding between the Kenna Cartwright and Pineview networks, just a quick pedal from home.

Pendrel had planned to retire from competition and start a family after what was to be her Olympic finale in 2020. But when COVID-19 delayed the games until the following year, she opted to tackle both new motherhood and a busy final year of racing head-on. 

Sharing her journey on social media in 2021, just three months after the birth of her first child, Pendrel made international headlines with her return to racing and inspired athletes around the world to balance careers and family life. 

Alongside her busy World Cup schedule, Pendrel has dabbled further off piste over the years with fat tire, backcountry and enduro events. 

Although she didn’t take out a race license in 2022 so she could commit to her coaching transition, Pendrel isn’t done with racing completely. She said she would love to compete in stage races or local events in the future.

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