She just keeps winning.
Sunday saw the 21-year-old California native win the Foothills Classic women’s professional road race to back up her Saturday victory in the Sunny King Criterium in downtown Anniston.
“I’ve never done this race before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” she said Sunday, nearly matching her take on the Sunny King Crit.
Organizers for Sunday’s Cheaha Challenge and Saturday’s Noble Street Festival, which is anchored by the Sunny King Criterium, added the Foothills in 2010 as incentive to keep more competitive riders around for the whole weekend. They’re biting, with 302 combined riders racing in Sunday’s men’s and women’s professional and high-end amateur Foothills races.
The men’s pro field ran a 69-mile course. The amateur and women’s pro divisions ran a 45-mile course.
Sergio Hernandez, the Team Predator racer who finished second to United Healthcare’s Carlos Alzate in Saturday’s Sunny King men’s pro criterium, won Sunday’s Foothills men’s pro race.
Hernandez, who majors more in stage races and critreriums, pulled away from runner-up Ryan Aitcheson and Shawn Gravois in the final sprint for his first victory in a road race.
“I’ve always been kind of the workhorse,” he said. “I’ve never actually had an opportunity to win a road race, and this is a beautiful place to do it.”
Rivera beat second-place finisher Amy Phillips by a bike length. Allar came in third.
Rivera made her name here Saturday by passing 2012 Sunny King Crit women’s pro winner Erica Allar in the final sprint and winning by half a bike. After seeing the uphill nature of the final leg of the downtown Anniston circuit, Rivera waited to go, after Allar appeared to start her sprint a count early.
Rivera had the most energy at the end.
On Sunday, she showed herself to be a quick learner again on an adjusted Foothills course in northern Calhoun County.
“We stayed together and set up for the sprint, and me and one other from Mellow Mushroom got a pretty good gap over the hill before the finish,” she said. “That didn’t stick, so ... I just stayed really patient.”
When it came down to the field sprint, Rivera took what the field gave her.
“I saw the sign for 1K to go, and I saw everyone passing on the left,” she said. “I saw a gap on the right and shot it and sprinted to the line.”
That’s how Rivera finished off a Calhoun County weekend that followed the script of her career elsewhere.
She has raced competitively for nine years, with 44 national championships in road, track and Cyclocross. She has raced in the Junior World Championships, Track World Cups, UCI Road World Cups and Pan American Championships.
She races for the USA National Team and Marian University (Indianapolis) for collegiate cycling races. Since collegiate cycling falls under USA Cycling’s umbrella and not the NCAA’s, she can race in pro and collegiate events and win money.
Rivera’s big picture involves collegiate nationals in two weeks. This weekend’s races in Calhoun County were her final competitive races before tapering.
“This was a nice little test to see where I’m at for bigger things beyond collegiate,” she said. “This was a good indicator of my fitness and my race tactics going into nationals.”
She said she’d like to come back and race in Calhoun County.
“It’s great,” she said. “I love the South. I don’t have a problem with it, and the racing is great with great promoters and good everything.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.