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February 7/15 15:53 pm - Catharine Pendrel: Why I Declined Carding Funds

Posted by Editor on 02/7/15

Yesterday, we wrote about how professional mountain bikers Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Max Plaxton (Sho-Air/Cannondale) declined the funding they are eligible for through the Athlete Assistance Program, so the monies could go to other athletes , specifically Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team) and Sandra walter (Liv/Giant Canada).  [See Daily News - Pendrel & Plaxton Give Back Carding Funding for Other Athletes ]

Max, Evan and Sandra provided their comments yesterday, but Catharine was unable to provide her thoughts because she was travelling.  The current women's world champion has now had a chance to write about her reasons for making this decision:

Carding is earned, a grateful support, but not an entitlement. It is not intended to bridge the income gap between professional cyclist and other sports professionals. It is designed to help those in need with the potential to represent Canada at the Olympics attain their fullest potential in sport. As one of the lucky few cyclist in Canada able to perform at this level with the support of my professional team, Luna, Own The Podium and Cycling Canada, I am in the fortunate position to be able to pass on Sport Canada's Athlete Assistance support and the coinciding tuition and support services.



2014 World Championship win


When I started competing at a national level in 2004 times were tight.  I was paying off student loans while working full-time at minimum wage and exploring my potential as a mountain bike racer. My training, housing, diet, travel and race decisions were heavily influenced by finances.  I had to decide whether I wanted to spend my money on coaching fees or a gym membership, meat or pasta.... again.  I think this was positive in some respects, as I was forced to choose training over travel to races, and racing at a level where I could fight for the podium. When I could perform at the next level it was worth the investment. I had to earn what I had and It made me focused and prioritized, but without increasing support it would have been extremely difficult to continue doing this for as long as I needed to realize my potential.

 From 2004-2006 I saw progress each year and glimmers of the rider I could be, but I always reached a plateau by late summer, a challenge faced by many working athletes. It was not until 2007 that I was able to maintain a high performance level until the World Championships in September.  I finished 6th.

In January of 2007 I had received my first card from Sport Canada. Not only was it validation of my efforts to reach the top and improve, it allowed me to work less hours and give more energy to my training.  The years of training and racing I had already done started to click, all of the components of performance were starting to come together, I raced my first full season of World Cups and I was getting results. I found myself in the Olympic pool that fall. Carding helped me make it through a critical time in my career. [Note:  Catharine finished fourth at the 2008 Olympics]

As cyclists we are lucky to have professional opportunities, but these are incredibly varied and few and far between.  My decision to decline carding does not mean that every athlete riding for a "professional" team could or should decline a card.  It took me several years of increasing support from both my Luna Pro team and Sport Canada to reach a point where I felt I could pass on the card without it impacting my ability to train and race at my best. I am now at that point and it feels great to be able to pass along the support to someone to whom it will make a substantial difference in their ability to train and perform.

As Max Plaxton said, when you have been a recipient of support for years, been given the resources to focus on performing at your best, it becomes more and more important that you provide these opportunities to others when possible. I think giving up carding last year helped my performance.  It made me cognizant of how lucky I am to be able to do what I do and has kept my passion for racing and the pursuit of excellence high.


A selection of photos of Catharine Pendrel's career (since 2003)


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