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After six years with Twenty20, an American UCI team that races almost exclusively in the United States, Chloé Dygert will make the jump across the pond to take on racing in Europe. The 2019 Individual Time Trial World Champion has inked a four year deal with Canyon//SRAM, one of the top women’s teams in the world, to begin in 2021.
Dygert first raced against the Canyon//SRAM team at the Colorado Classic in 2019 where she won all four stages, the mountain, youth, and points classifications, and handily claimed the general classification. Omer Shapira and Ella Harris, members of Dygert’s future team, placed third and fourth overall in Colorado, respectively.
Dygert started her road career by taking home both the junior ITT and Road World Championship titles in Richmond in 2015. The following year Dygert focused solely on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she was a key member of the USA’s team pursuit squad. Sarah Hammer, Kelly Catlin, Jennifer Valente, and Dygert placed second in the team pursuit in Rio, not the podium place they were hoping for, and the same result the USA had walked away from London with, but still an impressive ride by the four Americans.
The original plan for Dygert was to remain on Twenty20 for the 2020 Olympic year before racing full time in Europe in 2021 with Canyon//SRAM. The Twenty20 team was originally formed in 2005 with the 2012 London Olympics as the target, at the time the team was called Twenty12. Home to three-time Olympic ITT Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong, who happens to be Dygert’s personal coach, the team spearheaded by Nicola Cranmer has continued to foster athletes who eye the Olympics as their main objective. On Twenty20 Dygert could focus 100% on her Olympic aspirations on the track and in the ITT before changing gears and turning her eyes towards new goals. Her new contract with Canyon//SRAM was made before the Olympics were postponed until 2021, due to the ongoing global pandemic, but Dygert was adamant that this development will not impede her Olympic dream.
“Honestly, it’s the best team for me—willing to work with my track schedule and giving me the freedom to still be the athlete I strive to be,” Dygert said in Canyon//SRAM’s press release about her signing. “My focus in 2021 is clear—the Tokyo Olympic Games. I just want to heal and be ready in time, and my goals are to win gold in the time trial and the team pursuit.”
Canyon//SRAM’s team manager Ronny Lauke fully supports Dygert’s 2021 plans and Roman Arnold, the founder of Canyon Bicycles, co-title sponsor of Dygert’s new team, is excited to help outfit Dygert for the Olympic time trial. “She is an exceptional athlete in a class of her own,” Arnold said. “Her character, talent, and attitude towards the sport are unique – she has already achieved so many milestones at a very early age, with plenty more ahead in the years to come. Our first common objective is the Olympics in 2021, and I promise Chloé, at Canyon, we will give our all for her to achieve that goal!”
Another reason Dygert is excited to join Canyon//SRAM, and why she chose the Rapha sponsored team over any other European outfit, is because of the freedom. “I want to be able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish and they are giving me the freedom and the tools to be able to do that. No other team was as accommodating as Canyon//SRAM,” said Dygert. “Even on the little things, being about to wear my Red Bull helmet, my pink shoes, if I want to have pink wheels or pink this or pink that…that’s one of the reasons Canyon//SRAM was the best fit for me.”
Before Dygert is able to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo there remains the question of her being able to ride a bike at all, after her horrific crash at the World Championships in Imola in September of this year. Dygert, who won the 2019 ITT by a minute and a half over Anna van der Breggen in Yorkshire, looked primed to win her second ITT World Championship jersey before sliding out in a corner and tumbling over a guard rail (it is advised not to google the pictures of the crash if you’ve eaten in the last 48 hours). Dygert sustained a cavern-like laceration to her left leg in the crash and underwent surgery in the hospital in Bologna the night of the incident.
When asked about her recovery Dygert is optimistic that it is progressing, but is not sure when she will be back on the bike. “Every day is a new day. It’s difficult, it’s such an uncommon injury that, as of now, people have a general idea of how long it takes muscles to heal, and this and that, but, for the most part, they couldn’t give me a straight answer, ‘oh you can start bending it now, you can put weight on it now, oh I don’t know how much bending, oh I don’t know when you should start riding’. It’s so uncommon that we have so many different opinions and we’re talking to different trauma doctors, and then it’s hard because the doctors here aren’t the ones who did the surgery.”
One thing Dygert has going for her in this recovery is a motivated team to help. She has been a Red Bull athlete since 2017 and the team at Red Bull is doing everything they can to get Dygert moving again. “We have an MRI and we’re getting those sent to the people at Red Bull and the team doctors. It looks like I’ll be heading down to Santa Monica to the Red Bull headquarters and I’ll continue the second phase of my recovery,” said Dygert.
In the days after the crash, Cyclingnews spoke with Armstrong about her athlete’s comeback plan. “The most important thing for Chloe is to trust the process when she’s coming back. We all have to have patience and trust the process. It won’t happen overnight, and when we realize that and have patience, there is no question that Chloe will come back stronger than ever.” Now, a few months post-crash, it seems Dygert is taking each day as it comes. She posts regular updates on her social media of her steps to recovery, from walking in a pool to a little bit of boxing.
This is also not the first time Dygert has fought back from injury. In 2018 Dygert crashed hard on her head during the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California. She suffered a concussion that sidelined her from racing for most of the 2018 season. In 2019, however, Dygert came back as a force to be reckoned with. She won every jersey including two stages and the overall at the Joe Martin Stage race in the US. She also won two stages, the best young rider jersey, and was second overall at the Tour of the Gila. Later that year was her utterly dominant performance at the Colorado Classic, followed by her ITT World Championship in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire was the first time Dygert raced anywhere outside of North America in 2018 and 2019, and her first time racing against an elite field in Europe. Her ITT performance was one thing, but she followed it up with an incredible fight to take fourth in the road race, won by Annemiek van Vleuten.
As a member of an American team, Dygert has spent very little time racing in Europe. In 2020, as a result of the pandemic, the World Championship ITT in Imola was Dygert’s first time racing on the road in 2020. She did compete in track earlier in the year before the coronavirus truly tore apart the racing calendar all over the world. Dygert and Team USA won the Team Pursuit at the World Championships in Berlin at the beginning of March this year, and Dygert herself won the Individual Pursuit.
It’s not that Dygert doesn’t have road ambitions to match her track goals. “I haven’t raced on the road in Europe yet because I still had goals to accomplish before we could move to that one,” said Dygert. “I’ll stay working with my coach Kristin Armstrong. We’ve always set goals and gone after them one at a time, without spreading ourselves too thin. We’ll keep that approach next year and we’re looking forward to the support environment of CANYON//SRAM and its partners.”
Dygert hasn’t actually picked out the races she’s aiming to win in Europe yet, but she likes the look of the classics. “With all my goals I like to be realistic. So obviously next year with my leg, there’s not much I can do except focus on preparing for the Games. So in 2022, I’m looking forward to doing some of the classics and what the team needs me to do. I still am not super familiar with all the races, but the goals are to win some.”
Lauke has high hopes for Dygert on Canyon//SRAM, after seeing her ride in Colorado in 2019. “Chloé is one of, if not the, strongest up and coming talents in cycling. She is extremely performance-oriented and will fit well into our international group of young, progressing athletes,” Lauke said. “Chloé is an outstanding force of nature in time trials and with her overall strength, she is a very diverse rider. She will open up new tactical opportunities for our team during road races.”
Dygert joins a strong team of riders at Canyon//SRAM, and there’s no doubt that she will be a rider to watch in the future. For now, fingers crossed her recovery continues to progress and come 2022 we see her battling it out of the cobbles in Flanders.