Coryn Rivera was still a teenager the first time she won an event at the Amgen Tour of California, pedaling on junior gears.
On Saturday, the now-24-year-old from Tustin outsprinted the women’s field down a stretch of L Street in downtown Sacramento to claim the third stage of this year’s race.
“I guess I’m as strong as I was when I was 18,” Rivera said.
The 73-mile stage from Elk Grove to Sacramento came down to its final meters, after a series of individual breakaways were absorbed by the peloton. Rivera, riding up the left side of the street nearest the Capitol, crossed the finish line first, punching the air with her right fist.
Just last month, Rivera became the first American to win the prestigious Tour of Flanders in Belgium. But this was a victory in her home state.
“Pretty, pretty stoked,” Rivera said. “There was a lot of pressure, being from here and everyone’s talking it up. And it was great to pull it off.”
Arlenis Sierra of Cuba placed second and Giorgia Bronzini of Italy third, part of a 40-rider group that finished with the same split. Katie Hall retained the overall race lead but will go into the fourth and final stage Sunday with just a one-second lead over Anna van der Breggen. Defending champion Megan Guarnier sits third overall, 29 seconds back.
Hall, of Saratoga, was actually part of the trailing group after an early splintering of the field but promptly closed that gap.
“My team is so strong that they just rode me from the second group to the first group,” Hall said.
Riding on mostly flat ground after two hilly stages around South Lake Tahoe – albeit into a constant headwind – a few riders moved to break away from the pack. A three-person faction took a one-minute lead over the peloton early on before being reined in. Following a sprint through the Clarksburg area, Mandy Heintz ventured ahead alone.
Heintz, of San Antonio, opened up a 35-second lead over the pack at one point, riding ahead for nearly a half-hour as she neared Sacramento.
“We knew in order to get this job done we had to attack at the right time,” Heintz said. “The purpose of being out there for so long was to hopefully set up my sprinters to be able to conserve and take the free ride that came there.”
Slowly, Heintz’s lead dwindled. And with about three miles to go, the group had come back together, with teams maneuvering for position.
Rivera later credited her Sunweb teammates with setting her up for the final sprint.
“We had, I think it was, Juliette (Labous) take us up the left side,” Rivera said. “There were a couple other stronger riders taking the front on the lead-out, and once they blew off we hit the front.
“Julia (Soek) took us through the last corner, and Lucinda (Brand) did as long a pull as she could on the final straight. And the end was a perfect final lead-out going to the line.”
It continued a successful year for Rivera, who has won both the Tour of Flanders and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy in her first season competing on the Women’s WorldTour of the Union Cycliste Internationale. It also came on the same Sacramento streets where Rivera won the Tour of California women’s criterium, a one-day circuit race, in 2010.
“It’s easy when the girls do their job perfectly like today,” Rivera said. “I couldn’t have pulled it off without them.”
Rivera ended the day seventh overall, 49 seconds behind Hall. She’ll again be a favorite in Sunday’s final stage, a fast 20-lap circuit race around the Capitol.