'Aggressive' racing the name of the game for US women's team at Flanders Worlds

Leah Thomas, Coryn Rivera and Ruth Winder with their male teammates after the mixed relay team time trial
Leah Thomas, Coryn Rivera and Ruth Winder with their male teammates after the mixed relay team time trial (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ruth Winder and Coryn Rivera lead the American women's team into the road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders, providing a formidable one-two punch as the US seek to win the rainbow jersey for the first time in over four decades on Saturday.

Both women have pedigree on the roads and terrain of Flanders, with Rivera the only American woman to have won the Tour of Flanders, and Winder having won Brabantse Pijl earlier this season.

In the latter, Winder took victory after winning a sprint from a small group, while Rivera triumphed from a larger group back in 2017. Both are viable scenarios in Leuven, while a long-range breakaway can't be discounted either.

Speaking on Wednesday, Winder said that team is seeking to race aggressively, with her and Rivera prime options for the squad if a group gets to the finish.

"I think co-leader," she said of her position in the team. "We have a lot of good options. I think we'll try to race really openly looking for breakaways.

"I think this course really suits that and I think most of the peloton will be looking for the same chance, so I think we just have to be willing to take a chance and willing to risk failing to win on this course. And also we have Coryn, an amazing sprinter, as an option, too."

For her part, Rivera noted the varying strengths in the US team, adding that she thinks the makeup of the hilly course could prove to be in the favour of a group of riders – small or large.

"We know how the race can play out pretty differently, in different scenarios," she said. "[Ruth] has her strengths and I have mine, obviously, and then it's just down to how the race unfolds.

"Most of the heavier climbs are in the middle of the race and then the loop to Leuven is not as hard as I had thought it would be. It could come down to a smaller group sprint or if a break gets up the road and everyone is represented then that could be it as well.

"So, it kind of depends on who takes control in the race and who's happy with the situation or not. The brunt of the climbing, I would say, is in the middle of the race, so that's very different from the Tour of Flanders."

As for the strength of the squad beyond Winder and Rivera, there's positivity there, too. US road champion Lauren Stephens is part of the six-woman squad, along with Kristen Faulkner, who recently won a stage at the Ladies Tour of Norway and finished third at the GP de Plouay, while Tayler Wiles was second at the Trophée des Grimpeuses Vresse-sur-Semois, and Leah Thomas won the Tour de l'Ardèche.

"I think we're coming in with a really strong team," Rivera said. "It's the Worlds in Flanders and I've done races here previously, but actually, this course is more similar to Brabantse Pijl, and Ruth won that this year so that's a really good sign going into the weekend. We're coming in with good form and I think we've got a good shot."

While co-leaders Rivera and Winder will be looking at the backend of the race, the remainder of the team is likely to be active earlier on. Thomas, who was fourth in Brabantse Pijl, is one such rider, saying on Wednesday that she has learnt this season to race aggressively and "without fear", adding that she and her team will race in that manner on Saturday.

"I think if you have the freedom to race aggressively, at least for me, it really motivates me and excites me," Thomas said. "So, I think more than anything I was bringing that excitement and reinvigorated energy for racing to this World Championships.

"I think we have a really, really strong team this year on paper. We've all had results in our own right this year and that makes it really exciting. We have a bunch of different cards to play, and I think the key will be figuring out how to use the cards most effectively to come out with a nice result.

"I love the attacking style and I'm happiest when I'm in a break. We'll see how this plays out at this World Championships, or not, but I think going in with the mentality of 'we want to impact the race' will serve us well."

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Daniel Ostanek
Production editor

Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Prior to joining the team, he had written for most major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.


As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also runs The Leadout newsletter and oversees How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal, and he rides a Colnago C40.