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Inside Coryn Rivera’s sprint train

American rider Coryn Rivera's Sunweb squad is solely focused on winning sprints rather than overall stage race victories.

SACRAMENTO, California (VN) — American rider Coryn Rivera has quickly become the fastest finisher in the women’s WorldTour, having won bunch sprints at the Trofeo Alfreo Binda and Tour of Flanders rounds of the UCI Women’s WorldTour this year. On Saturday, Rivera added another WorldTour victory to her growing list of palmares, sprinting to victory during the third stage of the Amgen Tour of California Breakaway from Heart Disease empowered by SRAM women’s race.

Like many successful sprinters, Rivera relies heavily on her team’s sprint train to deliver her into position before she unleashes her kick. Unlike other squads in the women’s WorldTour, Sunweb does not have any pure GC riders; instead it crafts its squad around sprints.

“I have the perfect leadout going to the line,” Rivera said after sprinting to her stage 3 win. “A couple of other teams took the front and once they blew off my team took me into the last corner.”

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How does Sunweb’s squad deliver Rivera to the win? Canadian Leah Kirchmann says Sunweb generally tries to ride to the front with 2km remaining in order to establish its sprint train for Rivera. The first rider to hit the front is Dutch time trial specialist Ellen Van Dijk, who also brings back breakaways in the wind. Van Dijk did not compete in the Amgen Tour of California, although she was instrumental in setting up Rivera for her Flanders win.

“Ellen is like having three riders in one,” Kirchmann said. “She is so powerful.”

Van Dijk pulls the peloton into the final kilometer where the team cycles through its second and third riders in quick succession, which usually includes teenagers Juliette Labous and Liane Lippert, both of whom are budding time trial riders. Finally, either Kirchmann or Dutch cyclist Lucinda Brand ride onto the front as the final leadout rider for Rivera. Both Kirchmann and Brand are sprinters themselves.

“Lucinda is a very good technical rider and I’ve won this stage before and have good sprint power,” Kirchmann said after stage 3. “You’re looking at other teams and trying to keep Coryn out of the wind and navigating the course. There’s a lot that you have to process pretty fast.”

Of course, things don’t always go according to plan. During the stage 4 criterium in downtown Sacramento, Team Sunweb sped to the front of the pack on the final two-mile lap. In the closing meters, German sprinter Kristen Wild accelerated to the front, delaying Rivera’s kick. The hesitation allowed Italian sprinter Giorgina Bronzini to come around Rivera’s left flank for the victory.

And the team is regularly challenged by Boels-Dolmans and Canyon-SRAM, both of which have strong sprint trains.

Still, Sunweb is one of the only teams to specifically target the sprints, thanks to the addition of Rivera. The 23-year-old’s acceleration is perhaps the fastest in pro cycling this year, and her diminutive size gives her a small profile for the wind.

Plus, the team trains specifically for sprints during its offseason camps, running drills and race simulations to dial in its strategy.

“Yeah, we do always practice our leadout at training camp when we are together,” Kirchmann said. “Of course, you can never simulate an actual race until you’re in one and together.”