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Catherine Pendrel Report: Part of the Luna Blue Train

June 5, 2008 – Ever since I did my first NMBS race (National Mountain bike Series -USA) I have been keenly aware of the Luna Team. They have dominated short tracks and consistently finished on the cross country podium, more often than not first. In the beginning I was awed by the team — there’s so much talent. They were able to dictate the pace in short tracks that had me digging desperately just to hang on for 12 minutes. I often wondered what it would be like to be part of that team, but knew I wasn’t fast enough to send them a resume – I wouldn’t make a blip on their radar.

Racing in Norco red the last two years I often teamed up with Kenda and Trek riders, also in red, to try and break up that blue train. We were not successful.

Four years after my first NMBS race I was at the season opener and part of the Blue train. I was nervous as I don’t tend to perform well at early season races, but a 6th place finish at last year’s MTB Worlds gave me the confidence I finally belonged on the infamous team and was just going to have to be faster in April!

My introduction to the Luna team came with a phone call from Team manager Waldek. Knowing him only on the phone I was relieved to show up at team camp to find that he was in fact the joker I was hoping, not the tough “no b-s” guy he could have been; not being able to see expressions on the phone.

Luna’s mountain bike, triathlon and xterra athletes were all at the camp. Until I was part of the team I couldn’t fathom the amount of support and swag I’d receive. I now possess more casual wear and spandex –or Lycra as I’ve often been corrected – than you could imagine. Waldek is not only our manager, but our soigneur. We have two mechanics ensuring our equipment is working to its best and we also have a fantastic crew of well wishers at Clifbar. The camp was spent getting our Orbea bicycles dialled in, doing photos shoots (LOTS), and wining and dining with sponsors, friends and staff of ClifBar. Doesn’t sound too rough, but I was tuckered every night.

Team camp led right into the first NMBS and my opportunity to show the team I deserved their confidence. It was also my first time to race as part of one of the most professional teams out there. We show up at the venue Thursday evening. Each of the riders got a massage to work out the travel before bed. Friday it’s pre riding and another massage. Race day and Waldek is making up my water bottles for me! I’m pacing around trying to go through my pre race prep and finding my list of things to do dramatically shorter. Chris and Zeph are prepping and cleaning my bike, Waldek has all the feeds sorted and has been to the manager’s meeting. This is where you realize that your job is purely focused on training, recovering and racing as best you can. You have this amazing support group behind you doing their best to make your race perfect, the rest is up to you.

All this support and talent surrounding you can add a lot of pressure. Luckily I tend to thrive on positive pressure. I swear the reason I have steadily improved over the last six years is because I’ve always had people behind me believing I could be better and expecting more of me. In the race I kept thinking how cool it was that Luna were riding 1-2-3 with Georgia off the front, followed by Katerina and then myself. I was able to do my job and ride like is expected of a Luna rider and show them signing me was not a mistake. Perhaps I raced too aggressively, attacking the course, but not necessarily riding it any faster. All race Wendy Simms was breathing down my neck, but it wasn’t until about 200m from the finish that she made contact and was able to surge past me for 3rd place. The night before Waldek had joked with us that 4th & 5th were next to the podium, not on it, even though top five get called up. As I crossed the line in 4th I said “damn – next to the podium” and earned a smile.

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