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Coryn Rivera: Rolling with the punches

Coryn Rivera of the United States riding for Team Sunweb reacts after winning Stage 3 of the Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM from Elk Grove to Sacramento on May 13, 2017 in Sacramento, California.
American Coryn Rivera won stage 3 at the 2017 Amgen Breakaway From Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM (Image credit: Getty Images)

Coryn Rivera had a turbulent season, not just because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but also because of illness and a concussion that forced her off the bike just as she was finding her form. At the launch of newly-named Team DSM, Rivera spoke to Cyclingnews about learning from a difficult year, becoming the veteran rider on her team, and her goals for the Tokyo Olympic Games and World Championships in Flanders in 2021.

"You can definitely learn from hard years," Rivera said. "You learn more from harder years than you do in good years; how to react and keep hope when the crap hits the fan, like when COVID-19 happened in early March, and no one thought anything was going to happen. Then we had a calendar, races happened and a few still got cancelled. For the most part, the revised calendar played out. 

"To keep that motivation and focus, even though everything is hitting the fan, rolling with the punches, learning that some things you just can’t control, and you have to make the best of the situation, are important. Sometimes, it wasn't the best for me, personally, but if I could help the team win, that’s what I did."

Rivera, 28, joined Sunweb in 2017 and is about to embark on her fifth season with the German-registered Women’s WorldTeam. She’s had a successful career with the squad, winning the overall title at the Women’s Tour, four stages of Thüringen and a stage at the Tour of California, along with major one-day wins at Tour of Flanders, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Prudential RideLondon.

The truncated calendar, reduced to just 10 events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, didn't go as planned for Rivera. She suffered from cramping in a lot of races, a concussion sustained in a crash while training in August, and, while she was able to get through the Giro Rosa and World Championships, she caught a stomach virus during Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders that ended her season.

"Right when I was getting good, I had a setback, and there wasn’t enough time to build up again since the season was so compact. It hasn’t been the easiest year, in general, and on top of that there were a few extra things," Rivera said.

"I’ve struggled to find my top shape over the last couple of years, so I’m hoping to tee up a little bit better for next year and be back to where I was, because I know I can be there." 

The Team DSM roster for next year includes the majority of riders between the ages of 18 and 25, with the youngest signing junior world champion Megan Jastrab. "It’s weird because I’m usually the younger one on the team, and all of a sudden I went from young and learning to old and teaching. We have a relatively young team and I’m now looked at to be an example," Rivera said.

Rivera is hoping to race a normal spring campaign of Classics next year, which are important for her bid to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She is among the riders USA Cycling named to the long team for road racing which include Chloe Dygert, Ruth Winder, Tayler Wiles, Leah Thomas, Lauren Stephens, Amber Neben, Krista Doebel-Hickok, and Katie Hall, who recently announced her retirement from cycling.

"The Classics will be my last chance to qualify," Rivera said. "All automatic qualifying criteria is closed, and so it’s still coaches selection. You never know what they are looking for in a coaches selection, but I think they probably have an ideal plan in how they think the race will go down and the riders who they think will fit."

The 2021 UCI Road World Championships will be held in Flanders in September, where Rivera will be a main contender having won the Tour of Flanders in 2017. She has represented Team USA in elite women’s road race for the past six consecutive editions, with her highest place 10th in Yorkshire last year. She was also in top form at the 2018 edition in Innsbruck and ended up in a decisive breakaway, and she was part of the Sunweb team that won the world title in the team time trial in 2017 in Bergen.

"Tokyo itself will be important and then Worlds in Flanders is something that I’m looking forward to as well," Rivera said.

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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.