Sandra Walter and Catharine Pendrel speaking at the Vogue Theatre, Friday night. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

World-renowned cyclists spend the weekend biking with locals

Sandra Walter and Catharine Pendrel, world-renowned Canadian cross-country mountain bikers, stopped in Fernie on September 29 for a weekend of good company and great mountain biking.

Catharine Pendrel has been a member of the Canadian National team since 2004 and is the current reigning Commonwealth Games champion, having won gold at the Glasgow 2014 games. She followed this up with a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

She was the winner of the 2012 UCI and 2016 World Cup Series, was the World Champion in cross-country mountain biking in 2011 and 2014, 2010 World Cup champion, and 2007 Pan American Games champion. Catharine was born in New Brunswick in 1980 and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Sandra Walter is a four-time Canada Cup Series champion and nine time member of Team Canada, attending the Rio Olympics as an alternate for Team Canada. She has first place finishes across a wide range of biking events, including Cyclocross, Enduro, and Road Biking, including 1st place at the 2016 Squamish Test of Metal.

“I can never turn down an opportunity to come to a beautiful place with amazing trails and ride with cool people so it was not a hard decision for me to make when that invite came along,” said Walter.

On Friday, the two accomplished athletes met with locals in the Vogue Theatre to discuss their careers, as well as answer questions from the audience.

The first time Walter rode a mountain bike, she had a huge smile plastered to her face. This was an indication to her that this is what she wanted to continue pursuing.

Walter has been to Fernie many times, and is always amazed at the beauty surrounding it, the quality of the trails, and the friendly attitude of everyone inhabiting it.

Thinking back, the first time she came to Fernie was in 1998, for a Canada Cup mtb race. This was during her second season of riding. Just out of high school, it was a big adventure for her. She was also in Fernie for three days during the Trans Rockies 7 (TR7).

Walter started out small. Instead of shooting for the Olympics, her initial goal was to win the high school series, then the BC Cup, and it progressed from there. After she achieved every goal, the next would materialize and be bigger and better. Eventually, the Olympics became a reality. Walter loves that with mountain biking, she’s always improving and getting better. She believes this is sign you’re doing what you love; having the drive to continuously improve.

“When you set a goal, you have to actually believe its possible, even if it is kind of crazy. That’s how you get the best out of yourself,” she said.

The last time Fernie saw Pendrel was in 2005 at a Canada Cup Race. This was significant for her. Two weeks prior to the Canada Cup finals, she found out that she had met a lot of the criteria to make the National team. How well she did in Fernie, determined if she would make the world championships. Fortunately, she did very well, and qualified for her first world championships. Pendrels brother, a downhill racer, also qualified for the world championships in Fernie. Pendrel was then able to attend her first world championship race with her brother, the person who got her into cycling in the first place.

“That was definitely a pretty cool, unique experience, and a really nice memory from Fernie,” she said.

After an hour of motivational talks and insights into how them came to be who they are today, the two athletes opened the floor to the audience.

‘What would you do if you weren’t mountain biking?’ asked an audience member.

“I have the best job in the world,” said Pendrel. “It would be a really tough to do something different.”

You’re up there, you seem cheerful… do you ever have down days?

To this, both agreed. Every rider has their down days and races that don’t go their way. They believe that part of being successful in a sport is having the ability to have those down moments, and push through.

“The joy that I do get out of riding, I don’t want anything to take that away from me,” she said.


Walter and Pendrel were the first ever recipients of lifetime memberships for the Fernie Mountain Bike Club. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press