Canadian national champion Emily Batty takes a break from training for qualifying races at Bear Mountain.

Canadian national champion Emily Batty takes a break from training for qualifying races at Bear Mountain.

Team Canada in action at Bear Mountain in Langford

Team Canada gearing up for the Summer Olympics in Rio

Canada’s elite mountain bikers are flying along the trails at Bear Mountain Resort this week to gear up for the annual national team training camp and Olympic qualifying races.

The Team Canada group includes two-time world champion Catherine Pendrel, one of Canada’s best shots at bringing home a medal from the Summer Olympics in Rio.

The six-time Canadian champion is familiar with the demands of Olympic competition after finishing fourth in Beijing in 2008 and ninth in London in 2012.

Pendrel’s ascent in mountain biking (MTB) began in earnest when she attended the University of Victoria, which allowed her to sharpen her skills on the challenging trails of southern Vancouver Island.

Pendrel said Bear Mountain, which hosts the launch of the qualifying race circuit on Saturday, is the perfect training venue for the national mountain bike team. She said the trails and surrounding area offer all the challenges riders will face at World Cup competitions, and the relaxing environment provides the perfect tonic to promote recovery between difficult training sessions.

Emily Batty is set to challenge Pendrel for a place on the podium. Batty has climbed the world rankings to an impressive seventh place on the heels of a gold medal performance at the Pan Am Games and a Canadian national championship.

This is her first visit to the Canadian MTB training centre at Bear Mountain and the Toronto native described the trails and facilities as amazing.

“I’m sure riders from across the country will be impressed. The ability to train together as a national team is a huge help for everybody,” she added.

With an eye to the weather forecast for the week, Batty said during a break from training sessions that the anticipated rain should help the competitors. “It’s good to get a race in with muddy conditions,” she explained.

“It helps develop different skills that pay off further down the road.”

Quebec City native Raphael Gagne was also impressed with the facilities and trails at Bear Mountain. The current Canadian national champion in cross country said he believes the best must train with the best and Bear Mountain has helped to make that happen.

National team coach Dan Proulx said the course allows riders a unique opportunity to sort out problems that may arise during competitions. “It’s an individual sport, but it’s best when the riders function as a team,” Proulx explained. “The trails and features  and the infrastructure at Bear Mountain will help us in our preparation for Rio, and likely help us produce more medal potential athletes for the 2020 Olympics and beyond.”

Bear Mountain Resort owner ECOASIS and Cycling Canada formed a partnership in 2015 to build the official high performance training centre for Cycling Canada at the resort.

Cycling Canada, founded in 1882, is the governing body for competitive cycling in Canada. The organization’s goal is to create and sustain an effective system to develop talented Canadian cyclists to achieve Olympic, Paralympic and world championship medal success.

Cycling Canada’s vision aims to make Canada a leader in competitive cycling through international acclaim, increased national participation and the hosting of world class events.

The elite women’s qualifying races get underway at 1 p.m. and the elite men’s are at 3 p.m. Admission for spectators is free.