Rivera: I didn't have the legs at Tour of Flanders

2017 champion just escapes mid-race crash

Defending a title is a notoriously difficult challenge, as Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) has learned over the last few weeks.

Rivera lined up in a wet Oudenaarde on Sunday morning for the start of the Tour of Flanders with the number one on her back, as she had done two weeks previously at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. 

Her defence didn't pan out how she might have hoped, with a 34th placed finish on Sunday. Her Sunweb teammate Ellen van Dijk finished seventh from the bunch sprint behind winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans). However, Rivera wouldn't cross the line for another minute after being dropped on the final run of climbs. Despite the team missing out on a podium place, Rivera was upbeat as she looked forward to the coming races.

"Ellen tried her best to be up there and the idea was that I would be up there to back her up as a sprinter but I honestly couldn't have made it. It was a hard day as usual. That's just how it is," she said as she rode back to her team bus in Oudenaarde. "For me, I think it was just a bit more of the legs. It's a long season and, like I keep saying, no two seasons can ever be the same. I'll always do my best and try to be in top shape for this part of the season but sometimes it just doesn't work out. 

"We did our best. We put everything on the line today and sometimes there are people that are better. As long as you know that you did everything that you could have done, there is another race next weekend or in two weeks."

Rivera could so easily not have finished the day at all, after scraping through a huge crash ahead of the Muur van Geraardsbergen just over 60 kilometres from the finish. With slick roads from the rain, a fall at the front of the bunch sparked a chain reaction behind. In the incident, Roxane Fournier was propelled off her bike and between a wall and a lamp post. Rivera was not too far behind the crash and her back wheel slid out as she braked. A rider next to her was taken out by a tumbling bike, but she somehow picked her way through the carnage.

"That was a pretty crazy crash. I feel pretty lucky to have made it through and I hope that everyone is ok because it seemed pretty bad. I was just in the middle of it and I'm not really sure how I made it through. It was slippery," she said, adding that the subsequent chase may have harmed her later on.

"I had to do a little bit of extra effort in the chase behind, but I got back on by the bottom of the descent. It wasn't super huge and we got back together. Not too much but every ounce of energy matters. In the end, maybe it did."

Rivera will now enjoy a two-week break from racing before picking things up again at the Amstel Gold Race on April 15. 

Watch the highlights video from the UCI Women's WorldTour. 

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