Coryn Rivera on the importance of the U.S. national championships

The two-time pro road national champion says that lack of events in 2020 will hurt juniors the most.

Photo: Luca Bettini-Pool/Getty Images

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Winning a U.S. national championship as a junior is a big deal — just ask Coryn Rivera, she did it 30 times.

The recent announcement that USA Cycling had canceled this year’s U.S. national championships in almost all disciplines stands to hurt juniors the most, the Team Sunweb rider told VeloNews.

“It’s the big goal for them,” Rivera said. “When you’re a junior, 17-18 years old, to win nationals your senior year of high school, it’s a big deal. If you win, you get on the worlds team for that.”

At 27, Rivera has racked up a total of 72 national titles, some from her years as a junior, others at the collegiate level, then more as a U-23, and finally, two as an elite rider.

Although Rivera says that some critics don’t include her junior and U23 titles in the overall medal count, to her, those wins matter.

“Some people count them and some don’t,” Rivera said. “But for me, it’s an accomplishment. It’s my entire career.”

It’s her two titles as an elite on the road that rank among her most prestigious victories. In 2014, Rivera won her first elite national title in the criterium, and in 2018, she took the stars and stripes jersey in the road race. That victory, in particular, is poignant for Rivera; it was sandwiched between four second-place finishes.

“I was so close so many times, and it was pretty heartbreaking that I couldn’t get something that I wanted so bad,” Rivera said. “So I just kept working at it, chipping away, and it kinda solidified what I wanted and that I could get it and work hard for it.”

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entire race season, so even before USA Cycling canceled road nationals on July 1, Rivera was unsure if she would be able to attend the Tennessee event. She made a hurried departure to Europe last week to try and beat the enforcement of Europe’s travel restrictions on travelers from the United States.

And, it’s not just nationals that weren’t locked into Rivera’s schedule; she’s also coming to terms with the fact that her early-October wedding will also likely have to be postponed.

“It’s a week after worlds,” Rivera said. “If everything goes as planned, I’ll have to quarantine and miss my wedding. Then, Amstel Gold is a week after the wedding, so with the quarantine, I wouldn’t be able to make it.”

Rivera says that she understands that everyone’s health and safety comes before bike racing. Nevertheless, even if 2020 is a wash, Rivera already has her sights set on next year’s nationals.

“I want to get that jersey back,” she said. 

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