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Q&A: Coryn Rivera on being left out of the two previous Olympic Games

Missing the Olympics helped advance Coryn Rivera’s European racing career. Now, Rivera wants a spot for Tokyo 2020.

This story appeared in the January/February 2020 print issue of VeloNews.

Coryn Rivera was left off of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, even though she is one of the most successful American cyclists. With no women’s stage races like the Tour de France, or the Vuelta a España, the Olympics are the pinnacle of the sport. Since the Rio games, Rivera has bolstered her palmares, and is one of the most revered sprinters. But is it enough to convince the selectors to name her to TeamUSA for Tokyo Olympics?

VeloNews: What role do the 2020 Olympics play in your 2020 ambitions?

Coryn Rivera: It’s a huge goal of mine. As a kid you think about how cool it would be to go to the Olympics, and I always watched. I came close in 2016, and the Olympics before that. I would say my approach isn’t just to focus on the Olympics. I’ll continue to do the races I would normally do in the spring and summer, and my hope is that it lines me up for the Olympics. I’m in a good position right now to qualify, and it’s nothing to really stress about, so long as I can stay healthy and injury-free.

VN: What’s your strategy for trying to make the U.S. Olympic team?

CR: Well, it comes down to coach’s selection, because the only automatic criteria was to finish top-3 at worlds, and I was 10th. The qualification period is until May 1, so I need to have consistent results from the start of the year until then. I didn’t have the best spring campaign last year, but then I turned it around in the summer and got two WorldTour podiums, so I should be in good shape.

VN: You weren’t selected for the team in 2016. What impact did that have?

CR: I was disappointed, of course, but I think I did a good job of refocusing and making the most out of it. I just refocused on another race that was going on during the Olympics, [Thürigen Rundfahrt] in Germany because my training had been on fire. I trained as if I was going to the Olympics, and the goal was to get a stage win. Every day I was so close: I was top-five, then top-three, and on the last day I finally got a stage win. I was stoked because I used that hunger and motivation to have a good race.

VN: What impact did that win have on your career?

CR: It put me on the radar for European teams, and that’s when Team Sunweb started reaching out to see what I was doing for the next season. I think the win showed that I could handle European racing and do well in the European peloton.

VN: So, looking back, would you have done anything differently in 2016?

CR: What happens is meant to happen. I learned a lot about the process of making it to [the Olympics]. I felt like [2012] in London was the first one that I could have gone to, but I didn’t really understand what it takes to go. Then, I had to stop and think, ‘well, what do I actually need to do to get to the Olympics?’ I had to learn about the selection process and the criteria to make it onto the long team. There’s a lot of politicking that goes on that I didn’t learn about until 2016.

Get to Know Coryn:
First Bike: A Cannondale with 650 wheels with no paint, just raw metal. I still have it today.
Favorite Race: De Ronde van Vlaanderen
Favorite Ride: My local Como Street group ride that I have been doing since I was 10.