An American Cyclist Just Won the World Title After Three Years of Heartbreak An American Cyclist Just Won the World Title after Three Years of Heartbreak
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An American Cyclist Just Won the World Title After Three Years of Heartbreak An American Cyclist Just Won the World Title after Three Years of Heartbreak

Jul 14, 2023

Chloé Dygert’s win in the individual time trial on Thursday came after years of injuries, surgeries, freak illnesses, and personal setbacks

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American pro cyclist Chloé Dygert delivered a stunning ride on Thursday, August 10, to win the UCI world championships in the individual time trial.

Dygert, 26, finished six seconds ahead of Grace Brown of Australia. After solidifying the victory, Dygert admitted that she was not at her best during the race, and that she had battled a virus in the days leading up to the event.

“This means a lot for all of us. I am really thankful,” Dygert told reporters at the finish line. “I was really worried. If the race was yesterday, I wouldn’t have started. I spent four days praying I could start. I am still not 100 percent. It was just enough to win.”

The victory marks a return to form for Dygert, who has battled injury, illness, and setback over the past three seasons. She is one of the most decorated American cyclists in history, and already owns Olympic silver and bronze, as well as multiple world championships victories on the road and track. But since 2020 Dygert has fought to regain her place at the pinnacle of the sport.

After winning multiple world titles in track cycling early in her career, Dygert switched to road cycling in 2019 and won the world championships in the individual time trial. The following season, she was attempting to defend her title at the world championships in Imola, Italy, when she crashed on a hairpin turn and slammed into a metal guardrail.

The impact nearly severed Dygert’s leg—she was rushed to a hospital where doctors performed surgery to repair a deep laceration just above her knee. The injury kept Dygert off the bike for several months, and when she returned, she was not at her world-beating form. Dygert competed in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, earning a bronze in the team pursuit and finishing 7th place in the individual time trial. These were good results, but not at the level she hoped to attain.

Dygert was not done with setbacks. She dealt with constant pain during the 2021 season, and underwent a surgery after the Olympics to remove extra tissue from her wound—the operation did not fix the pain. Then, in March, 2022, Dygert was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, and the sickness knocked her out of the European road racing season.

Later that summer Dygert again went under the knife, and this time doctors took out a sizable amount of scar tissue from her knee.

“During my accident in 2020, eighty percent of my quadriceps was completely cut, and the iliotibial band was partially torn,” Dygert wrote online after the operation. “In the healing process after the operation, a large amount of scar tissue has formed that has left me in a constant state of pain, on and off the bike.”

But the physical problems continued. In November, 2022, Dygert had yet another surgery: a cardiac ablation to address a heart arrhythmia. Dygert said she suffered from supraventricular tachycardia—a condition where the heart beats faster than usual for prolonged periods of time—and that the operation was the best way to address it.

In a June interview with VeloNews, Dygert said the series of injuries, setbacks, and operations left her feeling helpless.

“It was hard. I don’t want to make excuses or go into too much detail, because don’t want to make excuses, or make me sound weak. But there were times where my life didn’t matter to me anymore,” Dygert said. “There were not good days, it was hard. The crash itself, it took everything in my body to be able to want to even compete at the Olympic Games. The pain that I had until I had this last surgery, I never thought I was going to be okay again, I never thought I was going to be at the top level again.”

Dygert appeared to be close to her best at the 2023 UCI world championships in Glasgow, Scotland. On August 3 she won gold in the Individual Pursuit event on the track.

But prior to Thursday’s road time trial, her Canyon-SRAM trade team put out a press release that she was not feeling 100 percent before the start of the race. The news opened the door for Dygert’s rivals to seize the opportunity. But pre-race favorites Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) also struggled in the race.

Vollering, who recently won the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, finished sixth. Reusser, meanwhile, stepped off her bike during the race, and it was unsure why she pulled out.

Dygert posted the early fastest time on the long, 36.2km course, stopping the clock in 46 minutes, 59 seconds in 46.229 km/h. Brown was second at 6 seconds slower, and Christina Schweinberger (Austria) was third at 1:13 slower.

Andrew Hood Velo Frederick Dreier Velo Sarah Gearhart Velo Sarah Gearhart Velo Andrew Hood Velo