She is the most decorated female cyclist in US history, and has won 71 national medals in 12 years of racing. But in 2012, Coryn Rivera almost quit the sport altogether, as her love for cycling wained and she struggled for motivation. Fast forward five years, the pocket rocket has just claimed her maiden World Tour victory, with a stunning sprint to claim Trofeo Binda, the third round of the UCI Women’s World Tour.
Voxwomen caught up with Coryn to find out what was going through her mind as she kicked for home in THAT sprint, what riding with Team Sunweb is like and how her move to train and race full-time in Europe is paying off.
1. Congratulations on your first ever World Tour win at Trofeo Binda – what was going through your mind in the final 250m?
Going into the final corner, I was thinking “right, who is going to jump us… I was just waiting, you know, anticipating. Who is going to try the inside line or mess us up in the corner? Then it never happened and I thought ‘holy crap I can totally win this’, it was just a matter of timing my sprint right.
2. Is this the most significant victory of your career? If so, what were the emotions immediately afterwards and now?
This is for sure my biggest win so far. I’ve done a lot of different races, I’ve won National Criterium titles in the US and last year I won my first ever GC race in the States. I’ve medalled at a couple of Junior World Championships, but as far as high-level races go, a World Tour race has topped it all. I’ve won stages in races like Thuringen Rhundfart in the past, but to get this win is something really special. It’s the most significant result I would say.
3. What are your goals for the upcoming one day races, after this victory?
I think a race like Amstel will be a little more my style, as far as one day races go. I have a good shot at that one. Then I’ll end my spring with Tour of California, where I will aim for a big result.
4. You previously raced with United Healthcare which had both a men’s and women’s team. Now you’re with Team Sunweb. What is it like to race under a team name that encompasses a men’s and women’s team, all together?
It’s probably one of my favourite things about being on this team . The past three years I raced with United Healthcare which had a men’s team as well, and even when I was in college/university there was a men’s / women’s component.
It really adds another dimension to the team, another dynamic. You become this one big happy family, where we help each other out, we cheer for another. It really becomes so much more than just a team. It’s cool when you go to a race when there is a men’s race too, for example when we got to Amsterdam airport to travel to Strade Bianche, the men’s team was there as well. It was nice to catch up on how everyone’s season was going, where everyone is heading to for their next race… it’s a cool thing to have. It’s really relaxed and low key and super supportive and really encouraging.
5. What is the team dynamic at Team Sunweb? There are such strong riders in the mix animating races and winning – how confident are you as a team?
I think everything has just really clicked. I feel like you cant really explain the chemistry, it just happens. We all work hard in our own way, in our own individual training, then we come together at team camps and put more work in, fine-tune things, and learn things about one another. Then when it comes to the races we sometimes don’t even have to say anything to one another, you just see it, that you’re all on the same page. So it’s pretty cool to experience, without having to work on it too hard. It’s just a natural chemistry that we all kind of get. It’s a pretty special thing to have I think.
6. You have now committed to life in Europe, training and racing full-time here. How has the move been?
So far so good! From my experiences of the last few years, having a heavy race schedule like I do, where you are racing every weekend, there isn’t much time to get homesick. It’s been really helpful for me so far. And my dad and boyfriend will be coming to Europe to watch me race Gent Welvegem and Flanders, which breaks up the trip nicely. It will be nice to have them around and good for them to check out the Spring Classics. Having the team house has helped a lot too, as I don’t have to think about accommodation. It’s well supported and my own little space to come back to.
8. What are your personal aims this season? What are the team goals?
Personally as it is my first full year in Europe, I’m just getting into the swing of things here. The World Tour jersey isn’t a big goal of mine. Going into every race, we want to win. We don’t show up to get second place. We always try to do our best with the roster we have for that race.
9. We have seen wins from a variety of teams, and some new names in the top 10 at some of the biggest races so far this season. What does that say to you about the depth and competitiveness of women’s cycling this season? Is it improving?
The depth has grown in the past few years, and spread throughout the teams, so, it’s not just one dominant team all the time. There’s a different rider winning every weekend, from a different team. This makes for much better racing and more unpredictability in who will win. Last year we saw Boels Dolmans dominate most of the races, and it was always about anticipating what their move would be. This year however, every team is now thinking ‘how can we win this race’, instead of ‘how do we get second today’.
10. We are also seeing some of the races broadcast and streamed live. More needs to be done – but what is the general feeling in the peloton – that fans around the world can now watch you race and win?
The more live streams and live TV the better for the sport. You just need to look at Omloop Het Hageland, my first race of the season in Europe – it was streamed live! Everyone back home in the USA was so hyped to watch the race that my friends and family woke up early to watch. The feed was super good and they loved being able to watch and get involved with the racing. I think the more we have of that, not only can our friends and family watch the race and understand it, but our sponsors, or interested parties can see that women’s cycling is pretty freaking cool. So the more we get it out there, the more people realise what an amazing sport it is. We just have to get this snowball rolling a bit more!
11. Finally, you considered quitting the sport back in 2012. What happened and why are you still here?
I thought about quitting, I didn’t ride for 8 months… At one point I was supposed to do a four hour ride. It was my freshman year in college and I thought “Why am I going out for four hours right now. And I couldn’t come up with a good reason. I was all kitted up, helmet on every chamois cream, and then I thought I don’t have a good reason to ride right now. So I just didn’t. I stopped for a while, and one summer I did nothing. I ended up doing the Tulsa Tough as a fun, last race and funded myself. I ran a few top fives and made money back on my trip. After that I stopped racing, surfed a bit and just hung out at home.
At one point, I thought, I really do miss this. So in the fall of 2012, I started helping out with the collegiate team for Marion University for Track Nationals. I didn’t necessarily want to race, but I wanted to be involved and help out the team, as coach, mechanic, and helper. It was really cool to see the other side of the sport and I realised that I really did miss it. This could be something I do really want to do.
I think it was a good age and a good time to step back from the sport and really think about it, and then make my own decision about what I really wanted for myself. It’s that age – you are Under-18, you are always told what to do, you just listen, then once you’re out of Under-19, and in to seniors you realise, “hey I don’t have to do what mum and dad want me to do”, or “I don’t have to listen to my coach, I can do what I want!”
It was a good growing-up period for me and staying involved with the sport through my college Marion was definitely a good thing, even though maybe at the time I didn’t want to race. I was still able to help the track team and ride when ever I wanted to until I was ready to come back. It was a really supportive environment, which definitely helped me with my comeback.