2014 North American Mountain Bikers of the Year: Pendrel and Wells

Todd Wells and Catharine Pendrel are Velo's 2014 North American Mountain Bikers of the Year

Photo: Geir Olsen

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.

Catharine Pendrel

She’d tasted world championship glory before. Catharine Pendrel, 34, won the 2011 cross-country worlds in Champery, Switzerland. But the former dressage rider, who quickly transitioned from riding horses to riding mountain bikes, had also tasted defeat.

Pendrel fought her way through rough seasons in 2012 and 2013, winning the 2012 World Cup series but riding to a disappointing ninth place at the London Olympics.

And 2014 proved to be her year of redemption, despite a broken collarbone in April that scuttled her plans to travel to the South African and Australian World Cups.

The slightly built Canadian from New Brunswick was never far from the front after her recovery. She won the World Cup round in Windham, New York. In the other four rounds she contested, Pendrel was never out-side of the top-five, and finished on the podium twice. This earned her second place in the final World Cup standings.

Back in North America, she was similarly consistent and dominant, winning four major races, including the Canadian national championship. Pendrel also finished second at the U.S. Cup races in Texas and San Dimas, California.

The Team Luna Chix rider won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, as well, beating fellow Canadian Emily Batty.

Then, much like in 2011, Pendrel delivered at worlds, wearing the maple leaf kit, on the rugged trails of Hafjell, Norway. She beat two-time world champion Irina Kalentieva of Russia by 21 seconds, despite suffering a front flat in the final 10 minutes of racing. It was a ride she characterized as her sweetest victory.

“After a heartbreaking ride in London, it was a two-year process for me to return to the rider I am capable of being,” she said.

Hopefully we’ll see that same rider again, at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, for an ultimate shot at redemption.

Todd Wells

It’s tough to find Todd Wells’ name on the UCI rankings. The 38-year-old isn’t even on the first page. And he was nowhere to be seen on the World Cup circuit in 2014.

But that seems to be just how the laid-back Coloradan likes it.

Wells has made a name for himself as one of the most versatile cross-country riders in the U.S., or perhaps anywhere, tackling events with distances ranging from a 20-minute national championship short track (where he finished second), to the Leadville 100 (which he won).

Along the way, he also won the cross-country mountain bike national championship on a rocky, technical course in Pennsylvania.

His season was one of consistency, culminating with his overall series win in the Pro XC Tour, which he clinched with wins in Colorado Springs and at the Subaru Cup in Wisconsin.

As if the disparity between a full-throttle cross-country race and Leadville’s high-altitude slow burn wasn’t enough, Wells will tackle La Ruta de los Conquistadores in early November. He won the grueling three-stage, 280-kilometer race in 2011. (He won the final stage of the 2014 La Ruta after having difficulties on the first stage -Ed.)

“It’s fun to train and compete in those different events,” Wells told Velo earlier this year. “Plus, [it’s about] the people as well — I race with different guys when I’m doing cyclocross, or cross-country, or doing races like Leadville or La Ruta. So it’s nice not only for the training, but meeting people in different parts of the sport as well. … So I guess, it’s whatever the next race is; that’s what my target is.”

While the approach may seem a bit indiscriminate, it’s clearly working for Wells.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.