Winning one of the early-season races on the inaugural Women’s WorldTour could give Coryn Rivera the chance to realise her Olympic Games dreams in Rio de Janeiro come summer. The punchy sprinter will join UnitedHealthcare for a European campaign that will present opportunities for her at Ronde van Drenthe, Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders.
“Last year was my first time doing the Classics so I really liked those,” Rivera told Cyclingnews. “Gent-Wevelgem and Flanders are the big ones for me [this year] because they are automatic qualifiers for the Olympic team.”
UnitedHealthchare had a strong start to the season with an overall victory at the Tour Femenino de San Luis with their climber Katie Hall. While in Argentina, Rivera showed strong early-season form when she placed second in the San Luis Grand Prix followed by a stage 1 victory at the Tour Femenino de San Luis, where she wore the first leader’s jersey.
The team returned to the US for their opening training camp in Florida this week from January 23-30 and from there they will fly to the Middle East to compete in the Ladies Tour of Qatar, which will given them an opportunity to preview the Qatar World Championships course. It’s also in preparation for their European campaign; Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda - Comune di Cittiglio and Gent-Wevelgem.
“I really enjoyed Het Nieuwsblad last year so hopefully I get a good start in Europe at that race,” Rivera said. “I’m looking forward to competing with UHC overseas, I think it’s a step in the right direction and I think we will have a good year.
“I think Gent and Flanders would be good for me. I really like the punchy, steep climbs.”
Rivera was named to the US national team’s long list to go to the Rio Olympics, of which there are four spots for the road race. One of those spots is already taken by Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) and two other spots will likely be occupied by time triallists. Rivera is hoping she can secure that last spot for the road race.
“It’s hard to make the long team at first and I think I have proven myself to be a good, consistent racer,” Rivera said. “To make one of the four spots will take some consistency during the qualification period and getting one of those WorldTour wins, and that will be an automatic spot. If nobody gets that automatic spot it will come down to consistency in the hilly, one-day races.”
If multiple riders on the long list win a race on the Women’s WorldTour, Rivera said it will come down to which of those riders has the most UCI points at the end of May.
Also on the long list are Mara Abbott, Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Shelley Olds, Carmen Small, Lauren Stephens, Evelyn Stevens and Tayler Wiles.
“We are all really only going after one spot. It will be tough but we all have the same chance and it’s just a matter of how we do in racing,” Rivera said.
Rivera had a strong season in 2015 with near-podium finishes at the Omloop van het Hageland, Winston-Salem Cycling Classic and Philly Cycling Classic World Cup. She also won a stage at the Internationale Thuringen Rundfahrt. She was 39th at the World Championships in Richmond after being in the day’s decisive breakaway.
She attributes part of her success to taking the spring semester off from Marian University. She resumed school this fall and recently completed her degree in Business Marketing.
“I took last spring off to try and race and qualify for Worlds in Richmond,” Rivera said. “I did that, but it pushed over my last semester to the fall, so now I’m graduated and finished. It’s a big load off my shoulders.
“I had a really good performance in Richmond and I think that was my highlight of last season. Especially because I took that semester off school to qualify for Worlds. I was really happy to make that time away from school worth it, and to have been able to make a difference in the race as well."
Rivera said her favourite moment in 2015 was helping her teammate Alexis Ryan win the Winston-Salem criterium. She said that her worst moments of last year were crashing in the last corner at the national criterium championships and then placing a close second in a two-up sprint against Guarnier in the national road race championship.
“Having a crash in the last corner at crit nationals was bad,” Rivera said. “To be in a good, winning position and then it being taken away was hard. To take second place at road nationals was rough to swallow, because it was so close, that one stung a little bit.”
Rivera is hoping to showcase winning performances this time around at the national champions in their new location, Winston-Salem, this year. “It’s always a target to go after the national championships,” she said. “I hope to make a good ride there. It’s a rolling area, good terrain, challenging, and I think it will suit me well.”
First things first, Rivera and UnitedHealthcare will travel to the Ladies Tour of Qatar held from February 2-5, where the opening stage is a trial run for the World Championships at the end of the season in Doha, Qatar.
“I think Tour of Qatar will be good for me,” Rivera said. “I’ve done it two years before and have some experience there. With Worlds being there, it will be good prep to do that race.
“Worlds is later in the year but it’s on the horizon as far as my goals.”