The Team Sunweb women kicked off Nationals season with a bang in Canada and the United States with two gold medals. On Thursday, Leah Kirchmann set a blistering pace on the technical time trial course to reclaim the Canadian National Championship ITT title she last won in 2014. On Sunday, Coryn Rivera bought home a long-anticipated Elite Women’s US National Road Championship title.
Coming off the OVO Women’s Tour in the UK the weekend prior, both Kirchmann and Rivera were faced with the task of traveling back to North America and recovering while preparing for their National Championship races. Kirchmann headed into the TT race first, unsure of how she would do considering this would be her first time trial of the season. She surprised herself with strong legs and stamina over a challenging course that included a substantial amount of climbing on the first half, followed by a headwind back to the finish line.
“I was able to find a good rhythm and paced the race well to finish strong,” said Kirchmann. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the races here at nationals and to wearing the jersey for the upcoming year.
Rivera eased into the Nationals competition by starting Friday with the criterium race in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. Through rainy conditions, Rivera tested her legs with a few attempted breakaways, and ultimately ended up just behind the pace in fifth.
After taking a day of rest, Rivera and teammate Ruth Winder lined up for the start of the championship road race in the US on Sunday, while Kirchmann started her test for the road race title solo. Without the help of a teammate, Kirchmann struggled to fight for position but used the technical course to her advantage – finishing in fifth.
In Knoxville, the elite women’s race covered nine laps of a 12.75km course (114.7km total), which meant nine assents of the notoriously steep Sherrod Road. The climb played a pivotal role in attacks and bridging attempts throughout the day. At the start of the final lap, a reduced bunch that included both Rivera and Winder was steadily reeling in a 3-woman breakaway. With just 5km to go, the chase group caught the final leader and immediately riders from the chase began to attack. With each attempt, Winder was there to shut it down to create the ideal finish for teammate Rivera. When Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) put in a hard effort up the final climb and led through the last corner before the finish, Rivera was there waiting to unleash her winning sprint.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic; it’s been a long time coming and I’m really happy to take the win now,” said Rivera who has finished second in this race for the past three years. “After all of the hard work that me and Ruth put in through the race it’s great that I could finish it off.”
Lucinda Brand, Ellen van Dijk, Julia Soek and Floortje Mackaij will compete for the Netherlands National Championships this weekend while Pernille Mathiesen, Juliette Labous, and Liane Lippert will compete in Denmark, France and Germany, respectively.