In music, they call it the difficult second album. After lighting up the peloton in her first full season racing in Europe, Coryn Rivera faced this challenge in 2018.
Expectations were high for the American; she'd won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders, a stage of the Tour of California and the RideLondon Classique in her debut year with Team Sunweb before helping the German outfit to the team time trial world title.
While the spring was not the unmitigated success she'd enjoyed the year before, there was plenty to write home about for the 26-year-old in 2018.
"I think I was a bit too motivated this spring, but I learned to turn that around and continue to fight and be gritty throughout the rest of the year," Rivera told Cyclingnews at last week's Rouleur Classic, where she was presented with the Vox Women rider of the year award.
The major turning point for Rivera came at the end of May, following a slightly disappointing showing at the Tour of California women's race, and carried on through to the end of June. She claimed two stages of the Lotto Thuringen Ladies Tour and finished fourth in the general classification before going on to take another stage win and the overall title at the Women's Tour. It was all capped off with the US national road race title, a result she had come agonisingly close to on several occasions in recent years.
"I think I've grown as a rider," Rivera said. "I've always been known as a bit of a sprinter, and going into the Women's Tour, it was intermediate sprints plus the end-of-the-race sprint, and then going on and defending a jersey and being mindful of time and GC, and who can go up the road and who can't. It was definitely a different kind of mindset to one-day racing. I think I proved that I can do a different kind of cycling."
In August, Rivera used the knowledge she'd gained defending her jersey at the Women's Tour to ride her way to the podium at the Ladies Tour of Norway. She closed out the season with a strong performance at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, where she launched a long-range attack on the main climb. Riding for the general classification at stage races, however, was a different challenge for Rivera, and she believes it has helped her grow as a rider.
"I've always had a one-day racer kind of mindset, and to ride for the GC is different. I learned a lot, and going into the Tour of Norway, I used that, and that was also a hard race going head-to-head with Marianne Vos," Rivera explained.
"Thinking about all the time bonuses, and what are the good moments to be mindful of something that's about to happen is all difficult. And of course, the effort over consecutive days is different. People recover differently. I've broken new ground there, and I've proven myself to be more of a bike racer."
As we head into winter, Rivera is currently enjoying her off-season at home in the US – after making the brief trip to the UK to pick up her award. The bike has been put away and she is using her time to mentally refresh and to catch up with friends and family and walk her parents' dog. She has also taken the opportunity to give something back by helping her collegiate team at the recent national mountain bike championships in Montana. Training will begin later this month, and she'll do a short training camp with her teammate Julia Soek over Thanksgiving before returning to Europe in January.
The details of the new season will likely be planned out then, but Rivera has the Classics and the defence of her Women's Tour title in her sights. The second part of the year will be worked around the primary target of the World Championships in Yorkshire.
"Yorkshire will be a big goal," Rivera told Cyclingnews. "It's a race that suits me. Last year, I did the Tour de Yorkshire and I got second on a hard course. Going into an Olympic year, I think it sets the tone for that. So, that will be the end goal. I hope I can go into that and finish the year well."
Mixed team relay and minimum wage
The Yorkshire World Championships will see the inclusion of the mixed team relay for the first time. The event, which looks set to make its debut at the European Championships next August, was announced at this year's Worlds in Innsbruck. The news was met with little enthusiasm, but Rivera, a world champion at the team time trial discipline, is keeping an open mind about it.
"It's pretty interesting; it reminds me of the collegiate team relay," said Rivera. "It's probably one of the more fun team events that I've done in cycling. It's totally different, and it includes everyone, and it could prove to be something really special.
"I'm definitely taking an open mind to it and not looking at it negatively. The last thing the sport needs is something negative. I want to see everything as an opportunity and build on it."
As well as unveiling a new event, the UCI also announced a raft of changes for women's cycling during this year's Worlds. Chief among them was the introduction of a minimum wage for women by 2020, which would gradually increase to just over €30,000 by 2023. Rivera welcomes the news but believes it could prove too much when progress in TV coverage is still lagging behind.
"I think, realistically, it is a bit high. I think that it is a good thing, but there needs to be something backing that up," Rivera told Cyclingnews. "There needs to be some exposure, the following and the dollars behind why and how we can make that much. I think teams have to get creative to meet that requirement, but I think it's a move in the right direction. I think we have time to get there and plan to get there, and create that exposure and attractiveness of what we do. I think that's the biggest thing – the exposure to get a following."
Along with the minimum salary will come a two-tiered system, with Women's WorldTeams and Continental teams. This is an idea that Rivera is firmly behind. With a single-tiered system at the moment, riders are thrown into the deep end at a very young age, and Rivera believes that a step between the junior and top-level racing will allow riders to develop better, which is something she had a chance to do by racing at the collegiate level in the US.
"I think that the tiered system is a good step because there are some WorldTour races where the disparity is quite big," Rivera said. "To go from from being a 17- or 18-year-old junior straight into the WorldTour, and into the biggest race you'll ever do, I think it is pretty heavy, and you're so young. You're so used to listening to other people and not learning how to make your own decisions. Then, there comes a point where you grow up and think, 'I don't know if that's what I want to do'.
"You can get lost in what you want to do, and I think that if you have a lower-pressure middle ground, then you can learn and build into the highest level in the sport."