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Rivera plays it safe, skipping Omloop due to illness

Coryn Rivera stays focused on her major Women's WorldTour goals this spring, opting out of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to nurse a cold.

After seeing her 2018 spring classics season spoiled by illness, Coryn Rivera isn’t taking any chances this year, and with a lingering head cold, she will skip Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

“I’m definitely learning and being a little more conservative this year and being smart with it because Nieuwsblad isn’t a huge goal,” she told VeloNews on Thursday. “It’s something I can miss and not lose too much.”

Last season, the American sprinted to fifth at Omloop at the end of February. She went straight to the Women’s WorldTour opener the following weekend in Italy. She did not finish that rainy, cold day of racing at Strade Bianche. Instead of returning to her home base in Sittard, the Netherlands with a result, she rolled into the heart of classics season with an illness.

It was a tough stretch for the then-25-year-old. She had a brilliant debut season with her Sunweb team in 2017, winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Tour of Flanders. The sophomore slump was very real last spring.

Once she had recovered from that setback, Rivera was back to her winning ways in late May and June, winning two stages at the Thuringen Ladies Tour in Germany, the overall and stage 2 at the OVO Women’s Tour, and U.S. national road championships.

Rivera is taking the lessons learned from her first two seasons in the WorldTour with an aim to win big classics again in 2019.

“I think every year you learn something,” she said. “From last year I learned that you have to make the call. We made the call pretty early this year [to not start Omloop], getting sick before the spring classics.”

Although Omloop is Belgium’s opening day for cobblestone season, Rivera isn’t tempted to push through the illness.

“It doesn’t make sense to start Nieuwsblad at 98 percent only to dig myself into a hole,” she said. “I want to start the classics at 100 percent and be ready to go for it.”

And the classics where she’ll apply that all-out effort should be familiar to most fans. The U.S. national champion is hoping to return to Alfredo Binda and Flanders to reclaim the titles she won in that magical 2017 season. She likes that they are marquee WorldTour events, and Rivera also says they suit her strengths.

“I’m really hoping to build towards the end of March and into April,” she said. “Really focus on those kinds of races, a little bit hillier and punchier, kind of my style of racing.”

With those events on the agenda, Rivera isn’t too concerned by the change in plans this weekend. She is coming off of a consistent run at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana where she was fifth in two stages and third in the last of four stages. She’s confident she’ll be back to racing on March 9 at Strade Bianche.

“I’m feeling well, the form is really good, I’m building pretty well, but I had a small hiccup with the cold, but I don’t think it’ll hold me back too much,” she added.