The 21-year-old Marian University racer and 44-time national champion in various forms of cycling showed her criterium form Saturday, winning the Sunny King women’s pro race in her first try on the downtown Anniston circuit.
She held off 2012 winner Erica Allar in the final sprint in a near-photo finish.
“It is a long sprint, and it’s slightly up hill, and I’ve never done this race before,” she said. “I was trying to get a feel for it.”
She catches on fast, which made her better than the average “darkhorse” for Saturday’s race.
She has raced competitively for nine, very productive 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 for collegiate cycling races. She’s a top sprinter.
“She’s definitely a bit of a darkhorse because she’s been in school full time, but she’s a super talented rider,” Allar said. “I’m not disappointed to be second to her, that’s for sure.”
Rivera emerged after Colvita Racing controlled much of the race.
Two-time Sunny King winner Tina Pic, who came out of retirement, and teammates Lindsay Bayer and Jacqueline Kurth spent much of the race trying to burn the field and set up sprinter Jennifer Purcell for the finish.
Purcell finished third, just ahead of Mellow Mushroom’s Laura Van Gilder and Pic.
In the end, it came down to two riders that didn’t have much help. Allar had no C4 Cycling teammates in the field, and Rivera had help from Stranaman’s Ivy Audrain.
Allar launched into her sprint first.
“Laura Van Gilder’s teammate went in between turns three and four, and I thought she would open up a gap, so I jumped on her wheel,” Allar said. “I came out of the fourth corner in second wheel, started my sprint a little too early.
“Coryn, I guess, was right behind me.”
Rivera went at just the right time.
“I knew you had to be in front, because it’s hard to come around,” she said. “But, if you go too long, you’ll definitely die at the end.
“Erica initiated first. After she went, I waited a second and then started mine, and it gave me just enough time to get by.”
After showing her prowess in a National Criterium Calendar event, Rivera turn her focus back to college racing and the chance to add another championship.
“I’m focusing on collegiate nationals in nationals in two weeks,” she said. “This weekend, I’ll take it easy and start tapering for nationals, and nationals will be the big goal.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.