Coryn Rivera looking to evolve beyond crits

Coryn Rivera finished second in her first race, a one-lap boys' race, when she was 11. But success in female racing soon followed, and it lead to her dozens of national titles and current position among the country's top sprinters.

About half a lifetime ago and when she wasn’t yet a teenager, Coryn Rivera spent considerable time pedaling around Southern California. It was heady stuff for a 10-year-old to ride 100 miles, but it was a family affair and it served her well.

Rivera, now 22 and the defending champion of the women’s omnium at the Tour of Utah, was on the back of a tandem with her father as the pilot. Her indoctrination was a quick learning experience.

A year later, she was racing solo. She finishing second in her first race, a one-lap boys’ race. But success in female racing soon followed, and it lead to her dozens of national titles and current position among the country’s top sprinters. “It’s one my favorite memories of cycling,” said Rivera, who finished eighth on the rainy opening day of the two-day women’s omnium. “It’s a big part of my life, growing up and riding with my parents.”

Much has happened since.

A sprinting specialist since her junior racing days, Rivera is steadily improving as a well-rounded rider. She’s succeeding at road races and improving as a time trialist. She’s won nearly a dozen races this season and finished second at the Pan-American Games road race and at the road nationals.

“Looking back, it’s seems like it’s been a long time,” said Rivera. “I’ve been racing pro along with collegiately throughout my career. I’ve been in a bunch of different categories and it’s been some what of a slow progression throughout it all.

“But I think I’m nail all of these little milestones, from studies to collegiate racing to pros. I’ve always kind of been pigeon-holed as a crit rider, but as I am getting older and having more time to ride, I am maturing as a rider and getting stronger on the hills and working on my time trialing just a little bit. I’ve stepped it up this year and it’s showing.”

Rivera’s breakthrough in pro racing occurred with her victory in stage 3 of the Thuringen Rundfahrt in Germany in late July. She remained in Europe to compete in La Course, the women’s event on the final day of the Tour de France. “The first big pile up, just about everyone went down,” said Rivera of La Course. “There were wheels everywhere. It was so slippery, even the mechanics were going down just getting out the car. I only crashed once then it was just trying to get back on an trying not to crash. I couldn’t count how many crashes I dodged.”

Rivera’s improvement has also been apparent to Rachel Heal, the UnitedHealthcare women’s team director. “This has been the breakout year for her,” Heal said. “It’s a combination of her getting strong and strong. It’s hard work and self-motivation. She’s always had the potential but now she’s turning into much more of an all-around rider. She may be be a GC rider, but she can win one-day races and certainly sprints.”

Women’s racing concludes Tuesday with a late-morning criterium in Ogden.