As the dust settles in 2018, during the off-season, I have some time to reflect on the year as a whole. I always like this time of year after a long season; to enjoy some family time, to do some things I usually don't do during the season, and to have a moment to breathe without so much travelling. I think back on the season and think about how I'd like to go into next season.
I was motivated about my lead into the 2018 season. After a breakout season in 2017, the bar was set pretty high, and so I was excited to get there and blast through. I had an excellent winter training at home in Newport Beach, California and thankful for the local group rides like Food Park and Como Street making me suffer into fitness. I also had a fun block of training in November when my teammate, Julia Soek came out from the Netherlands to escape the bitter Dutch winter to get a solid start on training together while still having some fun in the sun. Then a head-first jump into the year with team presentation in Berlin, a fun trip to the Philippines to see family and experience the cycling there, Team Sunweb's first team camp in Calpe, Spain, then a couple weeks of absolutely beautiful training in Mallorca for my first time, and then our last team camp in Calpe again. Everything was lining up to be a perfect start to the season with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as my first race of the season.
Nieuwsblad was a cold start to the year, but I was ready to get the year started well. A new course with a new finish suited the team and me well, and we were able to tick off the first race of the year with a 5th place, it was a good start for us. Then we were off to Strade Bianche after some snow in Tuscany earlier that week. Luckily the snow melted but the day still brought on constant cold rain. I remember being near the front on one of the first uphill gravel sections feeling good and warming up. As we rode through a feeding area, I thought it would be a good time to toss my rain jacket. Looking back, that might not have been the best idea. After the next descent, I froze – couldn't feel my toes and fingers or legs. I tried to push harder to warm up, but my core temp began to drop with only a vest on at that time. Once my body temperature dropped, it was difficult for me to warm up again. I grabbed another jacket from the caravan car, and my hands were so cold I couldn't even slip my hands entirely through the sleeve, at one point trying to brake with my fist in my sleeve against my brake levers. I hate not finishing a race but I had to make a smart decision at that point of the race and try to get warm again. This triggered a lingering sickness that would eventually lead to getting sick after Tour of Flanders. My body couldn’t quite recover from this event, and I slowly dwindled to another unfortunate DNF due to two crashes at my last race of the European spring, Flèche Wallonne.
After a cold and brutal spring, I refocused for the start of the summer. I did not experience the same success as my breakout season from last year, but I learned a lot about myself and learned from different situations. I always do my best in every race I enter, but there are a lot of variables that are out of my control. I had a nice break at home in California spending a lot of time with family and friends and recharged with some time on the beach and got a bit of sun after a cold and gloomy spring in Europe. Along with that, I got in a good training block to set myself up for the start of summer. The Tour of California was a week later than last year, so it was more like a little kick-start to my summer. I wasn't in the same form as I was at the race last year as it was more like the end of my breakout spring but it is always fun to race in my "home" race and the only Women's WorldTour race in California, let alone in the USA, and I came away with a couple of top-5s.
I returned to Europe to race Thuringen with the Team Sunweb ladies. And this is where I started to turn the tables on my season with two stage wins and a pretty decent 5th place in the time trial! Who knew? The team and I built great momentum at this race going into the OVO Energy Women's Tour. We knew this prestigious British stage race suited our team well and we started with our all-star roster to give it our best crack. With a 3rd place on stage 1, we knew we were onto something, and we were all flying after recovering from Thuringen. We stayed gritty and strategic going after intermediate sprints and then getting a big win on stage 2 by a bike throw. Victories are always kind of magical when looking back because, despite some minor mistakes, it all works out in the end. What brings it all together is the commitment from the team. We all committed to that stage to make the race hard and to be in the selection at the end. The girls were amazing going into the last few kilometres, and I read the slightly uphill sprint correctly to take the stage win and overall lead. From there we were in defence-mode by continuing to go after the intermediate sprints and ride as a unit to control the race. It was an unreal feeling to be at the front of the peloton with the girls rotating and controlling any attacks or breakaways. We were all committed to keeping the jersey, and in the end, we did just that defending it through three more stages including the final rainy stage in Wales with two bigger climbs. It was a massive team effort and a huge win.
From there I travelled directly to US Pro Road Nationals in Knoxville, Tennessee. I love that area for cycling as I used to do training camps in the Great Smoky Mountains with Marian University during my collegiate cycling days. I was able to get in a nice long training ride to Foothills Parkway a few days before racing that brought back some fun memories of suffering with my fellow Marian Knights. I decided to race the criterium a couple of days before the road race as I noticed the finish was somewhat similar to the road race finish. No pressure, I finished 5th in the rain and was able to learn a few things about the final few hundred metres. I had been hungry for this title, and I was prepared this year. I wanted it bad after getting 2nd place three years in a row, and I was thankful to finally break the spell thanks to having an awesome teammate in Ruth Winder and an amazing support crew in the caravan car and the feed zone. My parents even surprised me by driving all the way from California to watch and cheer! It was a dream come true to finally cross the finish line first with my then-boyfriend and parents just past the line. It was one of the best feelings of the year, and we had so many memories that week that I will always look back on and appreciate. I am so honoured to be able to represent the USA in the stars-and-stripes jersey all year – and in a badass kit, I must say! I went home after a dream month to take a break, celebrate the summer success, and refocus on the last part of the season. And to cap off my summer unrelated to cycling, I got engaged to my college boyfriend, Nathan Labecki! But until the wedding, I'll still be Coryn Rivera :)
I headed back to Europe for RideLondon, Crescent Vargarda Sweden, Ladies Tour of Norway, and GP Plouay. The form was progressing with all races, including TTTs, with top 10s and five podiums. I went back home for my 26th birthday and a final two weeks of training before the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. Team Sunweb kicked-off Worlds with a bronze medal in the TTT. Of course, to defend our TTT title was our goal, but we executed our pacing plan for the final trade-team TTT at world championships, and we were beaten by two faster teams. In the road race, I would set off in an early attack to set up Team USA for the final and ended my 2018 season on a high note making a difference in the race.
Looking back, I can see that I stayed hungry and gritty to do my best in races. Despite a difficult spring, I knew I had it in myself to show that last season wasn't a joke. I might only be 5-foot, 1-inch tall, but I am full of fight. And I kept fighting to come away with my first Women's WorldTour overall stage race victory, my 72nd USA National title after being 2nd place in the elite race for three years in a row, and a strong final performance at World Championships.
And to solidify my year, I came away with the Voxwomen Sharon Laws Road Rider of the Year award by online votes. In the end, I couldn't have gotten through the season without the girls and staff on Team Sunweb and all of my supporters. We all believed in the fight to do our best, and we can look back on 2018 with a lot of meaningful and memorable wins and losses.
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