American sprinter Coryn Rivera understands that the team representing the USA during the women's flat and technical road race at the World Championships in Doha on October 15 is not the strongest on paper but they are prepared to unite against some of the other nations that have star-studded sprinters in hopes of securing the world title.
"We have to be prepared for anything," Rivera told Cyclingnews in a phone interview ahead of her departure for the Middle East. "It helps that we're not the super favourites for this course, so if something does get away, hopefully we are in it and not responsible for chasing. There is a possibility for anything and with so many roundabouts on course, it could be hard to pull a breakaway back.
"I think we have a good team and we are going to have to come together to beat the favourites. It could mean setting up early and timing our sprint right or being in a small group, that will be important."
At the World Championships in Richmond last year, Rivera had a strong showing during the race and finished 39th, while her compatriot Megan Guarnier finished with the bronze medal and earned a spot on the team at the Olympic Games in Rio in August. The other five riders on the seven-woman team in Doha are Amber Neben, who won the world title in the individual time trial on Tuesday, Allie Dragoo, Alexis Ryan, Carmen Small and Lauren Stephens.
Rivera and Guarnier are accomplished sprinters in their own right, but Rivera knows there will be much faster contenders on the start line in Doha. Riders like Kirsten Wild (Netherlands), Chloe Hosking (Australia) and defending champion Lizzie Deignen (Great Britain), among other winning sprinters.
"If you look at the race, people like Wild and Hosking are pure and powerful sprinters, and they are the ones to bet on. But with the team we have going, it's a good squad. Megan is a good sprinter as well. She has beaten me at Nationals for the last two years, even though that's a different kind of racing."
This year, Rivera competed in the Worlds test event, which was stage 1 at the Tour Qatar, won by Wild. Although sections of the course are similar, Rivera is expecting an open race that could end in either a sprint or a breakaway.
The women will race 134.5km that includes seven 15.2km circuits on The Pearl of Qatar. The route is considered both technical and tactical.
"The Worlds course is a little bit different than the stage at the Tour of Qatar, but I believe the loop on The Pearl is the same, we just start in a different area to race into the loop," Rivera said.
"I don't think the beginning of the course will be too important. It's through the town, with no open or windy sections. I think the circuits are interesting. I drove it, raced it, rode it and counted 29 roundabouts on the 15-kilometre circuit, so it's like a really big kermesse or criterium. It'll be similar to a criterium and the finish line is 350 metres from the last corner."
Asked if the Worlds course suited her years of criterium-style racing in the US and one-day classics racing in Europe, Rivera said, "Yes, for sure," although she declined to discuss potential team tactics.
Rivera is set to race with the Dutch team Liv Plantur in 2017, after spending three seasons with US-based UnitedHealthcare. She has built a career on criterium racing and sprinting but more recently has proven her ability in hillier road races and in the spring classics, and doesn't like to pigeonhole herself as a sprinter.
She was an automatic selection for the World Championships this year, based on her second place in stage 3 at the Tour of California in May, a race on the Women's WorldTour calendar. She also won a stage at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen in July.
Her spot on the team was welcomed after she missed the final selection for the team that represented the US at the Olympic Games, and she lost her appeal for Mara Abbott's place on that team.
"Going into the year, Rio was a goal and Worlds in Qatar were a goal," Rivera said. "It was a two-pronged season, but Worlds is a good course for me and I didn't let that slip even though some of my focus was on trying to go to the Olympics. We have to move on to the next race, and know that there is an Olympics in the next four years and a World Championships every year."
Rivera's last race with UnitedHealthcare was at the Gateway Cup in September, nearly a month before the World Championships. She said that knowing the course in Doha suits her skills well was helpful in keeping her motivated enough to continue training and fine-tuning her form ahead of the women's road race on Saturday.
"It helped to know that I had automatically qualified, so I knew that I was training specifically for something, and that's a great end goal to help stay motivated for training," Rivera said.
"Knowing that the Worlds course is a good one for me, and that I had done the test event this year and have experience in Qatar is great for me."