Editor’s note: This interview is part of the 2019 USA Cycling Season Guide published in the January/February issue of VeloNews magazine.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and then try again — just ask Coryn Rivera. Rivera’s emphatic victory at USA Cycling’s elite road national championships this past summer came after three straight years of finishing second place.

“Having to fight for it for so long, having so many second places, was a hard one,” Coryn Rivera says. “It’s really an honor to win that and to be racing in the WorldTour with the stars and stripes on my back.”

Of course, Rivera has been trying her entire lifetime. Now 26, Rivera is America’s top rider within the European peloton. She began cycling at age eight and has won 72 national titles since. A native of Southern California, Rivera took part in her first race, following a dare, at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. She won.

She quickly fell in love with the competitive dynamics and intensity of bicycle racing. At age nine she competed in her first USA Cycling-sanctioned race, the Los Angeles Circuit race. Rivera had early success at USA Cycling’s national championships. She won her first two national titles in 2005 in Park City and began accumulating national championships after that.

Rivera credits much of her WorldTour success to her development days in Southern California. She joined the Major Motion team, a junior racing team that had older, more established riders, such as Alexis and Kendall Ryan, and Corey and Justin Williams. Rivera loved the fun and camaraderie of club racing and spent her weekends doing group rides.

“It was always fun,” Rivera says. “There weren’t as many girls so of course, we would have to race with the boys sometimes. The boys didn’t like getting beat by the girls and we didn’t hold back just because we were up against boys.”

Rivera learned lifelong cycling skills within SoCal’s thriving criterium scene. The fast and furious races taught her how to navigate the peloton and handle her bicycle. Her legs and lungs developed with age, but these races helped teach her invaluable lessons that often derail younger pro riders.

“Having that skill set and experience makes it pretty second nature nowadays,” she says. “If you don’t have experience with [bike handling], it’s harder to go head first into such a situation. You’re learning at the highest level, where you make a mistake and it could be pretty detrimental.”

Rivera has already scored impressive victories in Europe. In 2017, she became the first American, man or woman, to win the Tour of Flanders. Rivera undoubtedly has plenty of amazing wins to come. She says she’s still fueled by the same passion that pushed her when she was a child.

“Racing is what drove me; that’s what I like,” she says. “You have to do what makes you happy and do what drives you.”