Coryn Rivera (Team Suweb) has admitted to struggling to back up her breakthrough 2017 season, but feels she's now ready to hit those same heights again. With the women's Tour of Flanders coming up on Sunday, she's just waiting for the stars to align.
Rivera won the Tour of Flanders, along with the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, in a storming spring in her first full season in Europe with Team Sunweb. Last year she was unable to land a podium during the spring but did have a successful June in which she won the Women's Tour, two stages at Lotto Thuringen, and the US national road race title.
This year, the 26-year-old has come in with "a different mindset", as she explained to Cyclingnews in the run-up to Tour of Flanders.
"The first year was definitely the breakthrough year, and last year there were a lot of expectations, from myself and the team. I had to learn to get used to that," she said.
"I've come into this year a lot better. The team also understand better how I operate, with a lot less pressure. I've learned from the first two years and hopefully this third year is when I put it together."
Rivera made her 2019 season debut at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February, where she placed fifth on the opening two stages and third on the final stage. Her one-day campaign started with 60th at Strade Bianche and 72nd at Nokere Koerse before an encouraging top 10 finish at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda. 23rd at Gent-Wevelgem was mitigated by an early crash in which she hit her head.
"2019 hasn't been super good. I started pretty well in Valencia with a couple of top fives and a third, but I haven't got that win yet," she said.
"I started the season in more of a support role, helping people who were fitter than me early in the season, which took a bit of pressure off. I also got sick this season, and I’ve been learning how to deal with that. It just happens sometimes. I was lucky in the first year that I didn’t get sick or injured in the spring. Some years you’re lucky and you have nothing to deal with and some years you do have things to deal with. That's just how it is sometimes. You can only control so much."
At the Trofeo Alfredo Binda she came back after being dropped on the final climb but found herself boxed in on the finishing straight. At Gent-Wevelgem, there was the crash, but she also admitted to making a mistake in losing teammate Lucinda Brand's wheel in a chaotic sprint.
"Sometimes that’s just how it goes. It's the little things that just add up," she said. "Sometimes you need all your stars aligned or ducks in a row, so I’m hoping for that situation soon."
As for the Gent-Wevelgem crash, she revealed she had suffered concussion but insisted it was nothing to be concerned about.
"It wasn't a major crash or concussion. I remember everything. I wasn't blacked out or anything. I feel pretty luck it wasn't any worse," she said.
"I had a little bit of a headache on Monday but nothing too major – I think it was more from the whiplash but not so more my head. I got checked out and everything and was cleared. I’ve had bad enough concussions before that I can be aware when I’m not myself."
Rivera did not line out at Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and has spent the week getting ready for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
After recovering from Gent-Wevelgem she went out for four-hour for training rides on Thursday and Friday before easier days on Friday and Saturday. Her fiancé and a couple of friends have arrived from the USA to lend support and Rivera is excited for one of the biggest occasions of the year.
"Flanders is one of the highlights of my careers, no doubt," she said. "It’s a prestigious race and to be the first American to win it is pretty cool. That’s something that will never change – I’ll always have that title. It’s an amazing feeling to have experienced, and this year we try for it again."
Rivera will go into De Ronde as a co-leader alongside Brand, who was third at Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
"Lucinda is also riding very well. We have a good little duo there for Flanders. We just have to get our stars in a line. As long as we’re in the right spot at the right time, I think we can make it far in the race. The form is really good for both of us, so it’s just a matter of the other details coming together," Rivera said.
As for the competition, she pointed to the two outstanding riders from last season: Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen, world champions in time trial and road race respectively. She reckons the addition of the Taaienberg will add to the difficulty factor and play into the Dutch duo’s hands, but also pointed out that their form was hard to assess.
“Van Vleuten has only done one WorldTour race so far but she was strong. She prepares really well for races like this and the harder it is the better it is for her so she’s definitely someone to watch,” Rivera said.
"The same for Van der Breggen. She has only done Strade and then she’s been off mountain biking. They both haven’t been around the last few races so we don’t really know where they’re at. It could be good, could be bad. But they’re really the top favourites knowing how the finale is now."
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