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OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Pint-sized American sprinter Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) out-sprinted Orica-Scott’s Gracie Elvin and Boels-Dolman’s Chantal Blaak to win the Tour of Flanders and claim the first Flanders win for any American, man or woman. “It’s incredible,” she said smiling after the race. “I feel like I’m dreaming.”
As the pinnacle race of the women’s classics season – there is no women’s Paris-Roubaix — Flanders is the most highly contested and prestigious race of the spring. Rivera points to her team’s support as a major factor in her historic win. “When your team goes all out for you like that, you definitely have to do your job,” she said. “The pressure was on me, I got a little dropped on the Kwaremont. Ellen and I were on the back over the Paterberg but we kept fighting and kept going.”
Rivera’s move to WorldTour Team Sunweb this season is paying off as Flanders marks her second WWT win of the year after Trofeo Alfredo Binda in March. “I’ve had a good progression with European racing so I’ve slowly built into it and the team,” she said. “It’s perfect timing to be on this team with the new sponsor and with Ellen (van Dijk) and Lucinda (Brand).”
Sunweb’s relaxed personality and attitude are a good fit for the SoCal rider who’s often found throwing up the “shaka” on podiums. Brand smiles when talking about the team’s newest addition and says: “We are loving having [Rivera] on the team. “She helps keep the mood light around the team. She is laid back and it’s a lot of fun with her.”
But it’s not just Rivera’s lighthearted presence on the team that’s helping Sunweb to success this season. Her sprinting abilities open up new tactics for the team. “We know that she has a very fast sprint and can allow us to say ‘We don’t have to work’ in situations,” Brand said. “It’s another weapon.”
For Flanders, that tactic worked. Mostly. With less than 14 kilometers of racing to go, Team Sunweb faltered slightly as Rivera and van Dijk dropped slightly behind on the final climb of the day. Both riders chased hard over the top and on the flat run into the finish, catching back on in time to set up the sprint for Rivera. “We were committed to the plan of sprinting,” Rivera said about her team’s efforts. “Ellen chased it down crazy hard and luckily we had some help from Canyon also.”
Van Dijk’s effort put Rivera in a perfect position going into the finishing sprint. Not thinking about her own hard effort to get back to the group, Rivera jumped out of the saddle with 200 meters to go, snagging the lead at the line for her Flanders fairytale finish. “As a sprinter you always have a little bit of a bullet left,” she said. “I had just enough to take the win today.”