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Rivera’s road to 2020 Olympics runs through the Netherlands

Coryn Rivera will ride for Liv – Plantur in 2017. The transfer should help the American learn the classics and prep for the Tokyo Games.

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Coryn Rivera’s 2016 was punctuated by two big transitions: In May, she walked in Marian College’s graduation ceremony, closing the book on her undergraduate years; in October, she celebrated another graduation, signing with a European WorldTour team, Liv – Plantur.

Although the 24-year-old says she might someday go back to the classroom for an MBA, her next phase of education will take place on Europe’s, narrow, often cobbled roads.

“I really enjoy the classics,” Rivera says. “Kind of funny for a girl from California who’s in the sunshine almost year-round to want to do these really gritty, sometimes terrible weather races. I love the grit and technicality of it.

“I know if I really focus on something I’ll do well at it. I think the classics is what I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Riding for UnitedHealthcare for the first three years of her pro career, she’s been initiated into European racing, little by little. Rivera burst onto the scene in 2014, sprinting to sixth in the inaugural edition of La Course, and since then, she’s collected 10 top-10 results in European races, including two stage wins at Thüringen Rundfahrt.

The coming season should be a full emersion. Rivera will live in Sittard, the Netherlands. Her Dutch team, Liv – Plantur, is currently ranked seventh in the world. The team has a host of veterans, including Ellen van Dijk, winner of the 2014 Tour of Flanders. “I really enjoyed Flanders this past year,” says Rivera, who should benefit from the Dutchwoman’s experience. Plus, the Californian will have a fellow North American, Leah Kirchmann, on her new squad. “We were always head-to head. Now as teammates I think we’ll be able to help each other out,” Rivera says of the Canadian.

Longer term, Rivera hopes the WorldTour ride and the experience it offers will boost her chances for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “I’m growing every year, getting better every year. Definitely going after the Olympics, the next round in Tokyo. That’ll be the goal in four years.”

But now, before the spring classics begin, well before the Tokyo Games are in sight, Rivera’s focus is on Doha, Qatar, and the 2016 UCI World Road Championships.

“There’s about 29 roundabouts that we either go through or around in that 15km circuit. It’ll be fun,” she says, describing the Doha circuit. “I’ve kind of evolved over the past three years. I still have that natural punchiness. I think we should have a good race.”