Coryn Rivera's surprise Tour of Flanders victory in April proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she's more than 'just a sprinter'. The American held tough with some of the sport's best climbers on that day and, with a tough World Championships course facing her on Saturday, Rivera is not shying away from the challenge.
"I've shown this year when it comes to the one-day races it is my thing," Rivera told Cyclingnews from her hotel in Bergen, Norway earlier this week. "It is my style of racing. Those climbs won't stop me, and I think that I've proved that this year."
Rivera has been named alongside the Dutch powerhouses of Anna van der Breggen, Marianne Vos and new time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten, and the likes of former world champions Lizzie Deignan and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot as a potential winner in this Saturday's road race. If she can stay within touching distance over the already infamous Salmon Hill, then there are few in the bunch that can beat her in a sprint.
Before speaking to Cyclingnews on Tuesday, Rivera had her first chance to see the course and, with one of the longest women's road races ever, she is expecting a very selective affair.
"World Championships are hard to predict sometimes," she explained. "I rode the Salmon Hill for the first time. That was a pretty decent hill and thinking about doing that eight times, it will be pretty straining on some riders' legs. It's a pretty challenging course, similar to the team time trial where it is constantly changing in terrain, left and rights and everything. I'm not really sure what the team tactic is or how the race will go down, but it will probably be a reduced bunch sprint or a small breakaway."
Thanks in large part to Rivera's success this season, the United States has a full line-up of six riders in this year's World Championships. Among their seven are Megan Guarnier, Amber Neben and Lauren Stephens. Between them, Rivera is confident that the team will come home with a medal. If it is gold, it will be the first for the USA in the road race since 1980.
"It really depends on how the race plays out on what are tactic is as a team but I think as a team we are able to medal here," said Rivera. "The race can go a million different ways and I don't know what our strategy will be but I think we have a good team here that will always be in a good position to win. I think that we have all our bases covered and, as a whole, we will be able to medal this weekend."
Over the rainbow
Rivera already has one world title out of her trip to Bergen after she and her teammates beat pre-race favourites Boels Dolmans to take out the victory in the team time trial. It was matched by their male counterparts, who beat BMC Racing to complete a historic double.
It wasn't long before Rivera had to had to move on and focus on the road race, but pause long enough, and the enormity of the achievement sets in.
"Every now and then it will be a bit quiet and then I'll think holy crap we're World Champions," she told Cyclingnews. "At the same time, I think about all the work that we put in and the time that we’d invested, and the chemistry and flow that we have with each other. We definitely worked for that one. There are two sides to it but for it to actually happen is pretty mind-blowing. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe and one that doesn’t happen that often."
Rivera says the team wore their medals around the place after the win on Sunday, but the medal is now safely stashed in a cubby hole in her hotel room. Rivera is now rooming with Megan Guarnier - her teammate on Saturday but her rival last Sunday.
While her teammates Lucinda Brand and Ellen van Dijk have their medals hung over the television, she has decided not to flaunt it in front of her roommate. It might be different if she picks up a medal at the weekend. If she was to add another medal to her collection this Saturday, she's not quite sure what she would do.
"That would be unreal. I wouldn't know what to do. I would probably have to go up for early retirement, because I don't know how I could top it," she joked. "I hadn't really thought about it. It would be pretty unreal even without the other things that happened this year. I don't even know where to start with that. I'll leave that to after it happens."
A steep learning curve
The 2017 season has been a major breakthrough for Rivera, with victories at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders, Tour of California and the RideLondon Classique. She also spent a stint in the WorldTour leader's jersey.
After such a big year it can be easy to forget that it is Rivera's first full season racing in Europe. She had hoped to learn the ropes and develop as a rider, but says that the faith placed in her by the team has helped and she feels she has become one of the top riders in the bunch.
"My first full year in Europe I just really wanted to learn and knowing who is on Team Sunweb, I was like wow, I'm racing with legends and I was just really looking forward to racing with them and learning from them. Then when they put your faith in you to go for the win then you're like, holy crap I really need to do my job," said Rivera.
"It has been a steep progression until now. I went from doing half a season, maybe even less in Europe and the year before that it might have been a quarter. Now it's the full season in Europe. The progression has been good and now I think that I'm becoming one of the top riders at the highest level and finding my place in the highest level of the sport. I think that the progression has been good and now I'm getting to where I've dreamed of since being a junior."
The road race on Saturday will be the final race of Rivera's season before she returns home to California for some well-deserved rest ahead of next season, where she'll have to figure out how she can top 2017.