The American is a well-known puncheur with a fast sprint and says she has more than earned her spot on the team that includes Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM), Leah Thomas (Movistar) and Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo).
"As a kid, I have always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games, even when I was into soccer and wanting to be on the women’s US soccer team. Honestly, it’s a dream and I’m honoured," Rivera told Cyclingnews in a phone interview ahead of the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships where she aims to secure a remarkable 73rd national title.
USA Cycling named Rivera to the long list that included Dygert, an automatic qualifier, Winder and Thomas. The long list also included Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally Cycling), Kristen Faulkner and Lauren Stephens (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo), and Katie Hall, who has since retired from the sport. Amber Neben is named to the team to compete in the time trial.
Faulkner has filed a legal complaint with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to challenge the final selection for the women’s road team, according to a report in Velonews.
Rivera is no stranger to the process of challenging the selection as she was one of three riders, along with Carmen Small and Amber Neben, that filed appeals ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Mara Abbott won the arbitration launched against her spot on the four-woman team by Rivera and went on to finish fourth place.
Now, Rivera has made the final selection for Tokyo, and this time around, she feels the selection has the right mix of experience and strength for the 137km hilly road race. The route will include climbs over Donushi Road and Kagosaka Pass, and total 2,692 metres of climbing, before finishing at the Fuji International Speedway.
"[The selection] depended on how or what the discretionary decision would be based on. It was obviously in my favour, and I think that’s fair, because over the years I have proven to be capable in the hardest races on the calendar," said Rivera.
"Even in difficult moments, I’m still effective as a teammate. You never know until you make the team, so I was still surprised, but if I were to have chosen the Olympic team … they picked who I would have picked, as well."
Rivera has had a successful career with victories at the hilly one-day races Tour of Flanders and Trofeo Alfredo Binda (both in 2017), and she won the overall title at the Women’s Tour (2018). She’s also had strong performances at the World Championships; 31st after being in a breakaway in a mountainous Innsbruck 2018 and 10th at the hilly edition in Yorkshire 2019.
Rivera had a few setbacks in her bid to get to the Olympic Games not just because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but also because of a concussion that forced her off the bike last year. Then while she was just finding her form, illness prevented her from racing in some of the one-day races held as part of the truncated revised calendar last October.
She also had a later start this season after a personal family matter that kept her at home in California for much of the Spring Classics. She returned to racing at Brabantse Pijl Dames and used the Ardennes Classics to show rising form in hopes of securing her spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"Pre-COVID, I was on a good trajectory and proved that I belong, and earned my spot on the [Olympic] team. I had a tough time this year but I’m glad that my performances showed that I’m capable of being on the US team," Rivera said.
Rivera believes that between herself, Winder, Thomas and Dygert, they have a shot at winning a medal in Tokyo, even against the powerful Dutch team that includes Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten, Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos.
"The course is challenging but it doesn’t have one massive climb," Rivera said. "I think we have a great shot. Ruth has shown that she is on really good form this year, and so has Leah. I think we might be underdogs compared to the Dutch team, but we still have a shot at a medal."
Rivera is currently at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships where is aiming to add a 73rd national title to her long list of accolades. She will then turn her attention to building her form for a peak in Tokyo.
"My form is good, and after a tough spring, and I’m focused on preparing for the rest of the season. I will be at La Course and the Giro d’Italia Donne, and then it’s full steam ahead for the Tokyo Olympic Games."
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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