Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare) took a convincing win at the U.S. national criterium championships Saturday in High Point, North Carolina.
Rivera’s win, combined with teammate Alison Powers’ road and time trial national titles, makes it a clean sweep for the UnitedHealthcare team in the 2014 U.S. elite women’s national championship events in the road disciplines.
“It feels pretty amazing to have won all three titles in the first year of having a women’s component to the UnitedHealthcare pro cycling team,” said director Rachel Heal, “We knew we’d hired strong riders, but to be able to create the team chemistry and teamwork to bring those results is very satisfying.”
When Powers won both the time trial and road race earlier this year, she became the first rider to hold all three women’s national championship titles simultaneously, having won the criterium championships in 2013.
The team rode aggressive in this year’s criterium nationals.
Powers made a solo attack early on, stringing out the field. Counter-attacks and additional moves came quickly through the first hour of racing. The field dwindled, but then the pace decreased with just over 10 laps to go, as the heat and the effort took their toll on the peloton.
Activity picked up again with eight laps to go, following a prime lap. A few riders tried their hands at an escape, but at that point, the race was all but certain to come down to a sprint as it was controlled first by the Colavita team, and then by UnitedHealthcare. With barely more than two laps to go, a crash saw both Powers and Cari Higgins (UnitedHealthcare) hit the deck, along with several riders.
“Once I saw that Alison [Powers] had gone down, it was a quick reset because you know it was just the four of us,” Rivera said. “That’s the beauty of a real team. Despite the adversity of the end of the race, we were able to pick up the pieces and put them together. It just goes to show that we are a team that comes out on top.
“I think I proved over the season and last weekend that I had really good legs, especially for a criterium. I think [my team] had full confidence in me and I had full confidence in them that we would win this race today.”
The remaining UnitedHealthcare racers quickly regrouped, with Ruth Winder setting pace on the front ahead of Scotti Wilborn, and Lauren Tamayo, while Rivera sat comfortably in their draft.
UnitedHealthcare delivered Rivera out of the final corner and into the closing meters of the race. From there, Rivera sealed the deal, winning the sprint, and taking the national championship jersey. Erica Rivera (Colavita) finished second, and Sam Schneider (Tibco) sprinted to third.
“It’s super fun being here in High Point,” Schneider said. “We had a great crowd cheering us on. It’s an honor to be on the podium with such a stacked field.”
“From the outset, we were going all-in for Coryn in a sprint finish. We’ve been working really hard on perfecting our leadout, and we were confident of it going into the race. Unfortunately, we lost our last two leadout riders with two laps to go, but the remaining racers were able to adjust and still deliver Coryn to the line,” said Heal.
For Rivera, it marked her fifty-ninth career national championship. After the race, she said, “It’s pretty incredible. It’s my first pro national title. Sometimes I get a little grief for having so many junior and collegiate titles. This one tops them all, and I’m so happy to have won it with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team.”