03/15/2012 01:16 EDT | Updated 05/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Eye on the prize: Canada's Catharine Pendrel preparing for run at Olympic gold

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa - Catharine Pendrel has more on her mind these days than regaining the mountain bike World Cup title.

As the Kamloops, B.C., native prepares for this weekend's season-opening World Cup event, her focus is on being ready for the London Olympics.

Pendrel finished fourth in Beijing four years ago in her Olympic debut and, despite winning her first race of the season two weeks ago in Texas, she said Thursday she is planning a slow build-up to the London Games.

"My training is geared around being my best in August but, that being said, to be the best in the world in August, I need to be among the best in the world now," she said. "I hope to be fast here, and I think I'm going to be a contender. I feel good and I feel ready."

The four World Cup races between Saturday's event at Pietermaritzburg and May 23 are the final opportunities to gather points that will determine how many Olympic berths each country will get.

Canada's women's team is currently ranked first while the men's team is ninth. National team coach Dan Proulx said Canada will likely end up with two spots for each team.

He says he wants to keep things on ''an even keel'' in the lead-up to London.

"If we win one (a World Cup) great, but we aren't going to get too excited about it," said Proulx. "And the same thing if it goes badly — we're just using it as feedback. We don't want to create a roller- coaster in an Olympic year, it's more about mastering fundamentals and doing what we have rehearsed."

Last year the 31-year-old Pendrel lost her overall World Cup title by just 40 points to France's Julie Bresset. But the reigning world champion said she'll give up World Cup victories for a shot at a gold medal in London.

"I'm going to try and have a lot of good races to give myself confidence, but still leave something in the tank so I can continue to build form and be really fast in August," said Pendrel. "Satisfied this weekend will just be riding the cleanest race I can, feeling good technically and feeling good physically.

She's hoping to be as prepared as possible when she races in London on Aug. 11.

"I'm taking these races as a bit of a learning opportunity as well, so I can take as much experience into August as possible," she said. "Hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to get on the podium in the process."