Team USA Team Work Brings Rivera to Seventh in the Olympic Road Race
July 26, 2021
Blevins climbs from 32nd to finish 14th in a stacked field.
TOKYO – On Sunday, the second cycling event of the XXXII Olympiad took place with the Women’s Road Race. Like the Men’s race on Sunday, this road race began at Musashinonomori Park, with its lush landscape. The 137-kilometer race followed a similar course to the Men’s event, leaving from the park on a parade start, going over the Doshi Road climb, around Lake Yamanakako, over Kagosaka Pass, and then into the Fuji International Speedway for one-and-a-half laps around the track.
Chloé Dygert (Brownsburg, Ind.; CANYON//SRAM Racing), Coryn Rivera (Tustin, Calif.; Team DSM), Leah Thomas (Santa Clara, Calif.; Moviestar Team Women), and Ruth Winder (Boulder, Colo.; Trek-Segafredo) wore the kit of Team USA in the 67-rider field, which had 40 nations represented. They battled extreme heat conditions, with temperatures going into the 90’s. Teams started passing cooling ice packs to riders as soon as the neutral start ended, with riders from the U.S., the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany all sending riders back to get refreshments early.
While some of the larger teams were feeding a group of five, with members from Austria, Israel, Namibia, Poland, and South Africa, launched an attack. Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) would attack from the peloton at 52 kilometers as they approached the peak of the Doshi Road climb, gaining almost a minute, but was pulled back to the group through the efforts of Winder, Thomas, Dygert, and others. While the cat-and-mouse action in the peloton went on, Anna Kiesenhofer (AUT), Anna Plichta (POL), and Omer Shapira (ISR) grew a steady lead, at one point sitting almost 10 minutes in front of the field. At 41-kilometers to go, Kiesenhofer pulled away from her fellow leaders. She charged towards the finish, maintaining the lead, winning the race in a time of 3:52:45. Rivera was in the lead group at the end, sprinting it out with a group of eleven women. She took third in the field sprint and seventh overall.
Rivera, overcome with emotion at the end of her race said, “Obviously, not what I want, but I’ve worked hard for it. I cramped, so I gave it my all. I think the girls did an outstanding job today. We did the best that we could. We tried. And I think we did our best today. I’m pretty happy with it for my first Olympics as well. After everything, I can be pretty satisfied.”
Next on the road for Team USA was Thomas, finishing in a time of 3:56:07 in 29th. “My role was to work, and it’s a role that I’m pretty familiar with. I feel like I gave everything that I could,” said Thomas about her experience in her first Olympics. “Coryn was a great captain on the road all day. Working for these riders who have so much more experience than me, I think, is a huge learning opportunity. I’m really grateful and really excited to have been here, and I feel like I really raced and gave it my all. I hope I can walk away with my head held high and proud of what we did together. There are things we can do better and learn from. I think what’s unique about this team is we’re willing to have those conversations and learn how we can better support each other in the future.”
Dygert would be next for the U.S., finishing 31st. This event was her first road race in over two years. The 2019 Time Trial World Champion will compete in the Time Trial on Wednesday. Rounding out the Americans in the peloton, Winder placed 45th.
When talking about her upcoming retirement and how racing in the Games plays into that, Winder said, “It means quite a lot. The Olympics are a big deal. I went to the Olympics once before for track. And this experience gets to be a little bit special in a different way. I really love the girls on the team as well, so that feels pretty special. It’s a big year and a lot of emotion.” Winder also expresses what it’s like racing with teammates that she is close with on and off the bike, “We just want to go the extra mile for each other, which is a great feeling. It’s a special feeling.”
Christopher Blevins (Durango, Colo.; Trinity Racing) makes his Olympic premiere on Monday in the Men’s Cross-Country event at the Izu Mountain Bike course. He’ll face off against thirty-seven other riders from twenty-nine countries.
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