Culture

VN Awards: North American woman of the year

The veteran Coryn Labecki experienced a number of firsts, many good, one tragic.

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With a racing career that spans the better part of 17 years, Coryn Labecki [née Rivera] has been around the proverbial block of bike racing. The Californian has 72 national championship titles, multiple WorldTour wins, and the distinction of being the only American to ever win the Tour of Flanders.

Yet 2021 was a year flush with firsts for the 28-year-old, many good, one tragic, all informing her philosophy about racing today.

“It’s really understanding that it’s the process and really not the end goal,” Labecki told VeloNews. “Of course everybody wants to win, but what about being able to set your mind on a goal and do the best you possibly can?”

Over the summer Labecki ticked off a series of career-defining accomplishments in short order. In June, she was named to the U.S. Olympic road team, and in July she won a stage at the Giro d’Italia Donne. Days later, she flew to Tokyo, where she finished seventh in the Olympic road race.

And while Labecki’s summer successes stacked up nicely, getting there was anything but easy.

In March, Labecki’s father, Wally Rivera, died from COVID-19, and after his death, she took a few months away from the peloton.

“There was a huge emotional toll that carried on throughout the spring,” she said. “But I think I still showed that I can be a really effective teammate even when I’m not doing my best.”

In Tokyo, Labecki put her aptitude for teamwork on display. She was the only American to ride in the front group after the summit of Doshi Pass, a move that put her in the position of racing for gold for Team USA.

After the race, Labecki expressed deep satisfaction with her top-10 result, again showing that a lifetime of racing bikes hadn’t just sharpened her focus on winning, but on the ups and downs of the journey along the way.

Coryn closed out her 2021 season by marrying her partner Nate Labecki and confirming her transfer from Team DSM to Jumbo-Visma for the 2022 season.