ESSEX, United Kingdom - Two-time world champion Catharine Pendrel came into the women's mountain bike cross-country cycling event fully confident that she could reach the Olympic podium.
She didn't get anywhere near it.
Pendrel was out of contention by the midway point and settled for a disappointing ninth-place finish on the Hadleigh Farm course. It was a head-scratching result from the 31-year-old Canadian, who won the test event here and has three World Cup victories this year.
Pendrel was in the top three early in the race but started to fade late in the second lap.
"I've never gone backwards in a race like that before," Pendrel said. "Usually I'm going forward, I'm attacking and aggressive.
"I just wasn't, I just never found my rhythm."
Julie Bresset of France dominated the second half of the race and won gold with a time of one hour 30 minutes 52 seconds. Germany's Sabine Spitz was over a minute behind in second place (1:31:54) and American Georgia Gould won bronze (1:32:00).
Pendrel, from Kamloops, B.C., finished ninth in 1:34:28 and Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont., was 24th in 1:40:37. Batty raced despite suffering a fractured right clavicle in a training crash last Tuesday.
Pendrel finished fourth in Beijing and missed out on a medal by just nine seconds. She displayed her usual form early on and didn't have any answers for her slow fade.
"Definitely not what I expected today, not what I hoped for, not what I prepared for," she said. "I felt so exceptional yesterday and today I just didn't have it."
The warm, sunny conditions made things tough for the riders as the five-kilometre man-made track offered little shade. With potholes, boulders, jumps and steep climbs mixed in, it was a tough test of strength and endurance.
Pendrel has shown she can come through at top events. However, the Olympic stage was not kind on a glorious, breezy Saturday afternoon east of London.
"It's just what I had on the day," Pendrel said. "Unfortunately this day only comes every four years. So maybe in Rio."
She recovered quickly after taking a minor tumble at one point but said afterward that she didn't have any bike or injury issues.
"I thought I was coming around but girls just kept on passing and passing and passing me," she said.
Pendrel added that she might have come out of the gates a little too fast.
"Normally I'm really aggressive and out of the saddle and attacking," she said. "I don't know if I just used up all my energy being excited to race. I didn't have it today."
Canadian team coach Dan Proulx — who also serves as Pendrel's personal coach — did not speak to reporters after the race. High performance director Jacques Landry said the result was unexpected.
"There are some off-days obviously," he said. "It's cycling, it's the Olympics. I haven't really reflected on it yet."
Batty, meanwhile, said she crashed Tuesday after hitting a rock on a descent. The fact she was able to compete at all was quite remarkable given the punishment the body takes on the track.
After being evaluated by doctors and passing a series of tests, Batty was given the option to compete. She went for a test ride on the course Thursday before deciding to stay on the start list.
"My head is not broken, my legs are not broken, my heart is broken," Batty said. "I was able to climb, I was able to race and I was not able to descend very well.
"At the Olympics you need to have 200 per cent on your side. If you're lacking anything, then that's how the day goes."
Batty, 24, was only able to descend on her bike at a fraction of her usual capability. She said she took a painkiller each night after the crash but was not in serious pain on race day.
"I was confident with my ability and my strength in my arm," she said. "So I felt it was just going to come down to my head and so I tried my hardest."
Victoria's Max Plaxton and Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, B.C., will compete in the men's event Sunday.