Only this morning was it announced that Chloe Dygert had been suffering from illness since winning on the track earlier in the week. But it was assured that she had been doing everything possible to recover ahead of the elite women’s time trial World Championships today. And whatever recovery the American rider had been doing clearly worked wonders – not only did she fly around the 36.2km-long time trial route (the longest-ever TT in the women’s World Championships), but bested the field with an astonishing 46:59 overall time.
Dygert was one of the earlier riders to set off. She, therefore, only had to focus on her own ride as the favourites, including European time trial champion Marlen Reusser were due to start later in the race. This worked in her favour as the long course meant the riders had to pace their effort, especially with the monster of a cobbled climb to Stirling Castle awaiting them in the final kilometre. But at the first intermediate time check, Dygert had set a blistering average speed at 53kph.
As she kept the pace high, she picked off her rivals one by one, and each rider up ahead was simply a carrot for Dygert to chase. On the final climb, she drove the pace even harder despite the climb’s 10% ramps, demonstrating the pure powerhouse she is. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig even commented on Dygert’s effort after the race. “Chloe was just on another level,” she said. Dygert placed herself firmly in the hot seat and put on her lucky pink trainers, waiting to see what her fate was set to be.
Going into the time trial Dygert was an out-and-out favourite alongside Reusser and Grace Brown. The American set a phenomenal time with everyone just having to chase her. But the two other favourites, the in form Reusser and Brown, were coming later in the race, and it was anticipated to be a three-way battle for the rainbow jersey. As the time trial unfolded, sadly, Reusser had to abandon the race with 16.3km to go, leaving Brown the only rider to challenge the Dygert.
Silver medallist in last year’s World Championships time trial, Brown tore through the course and with each intermediate time check it looked like she was closing in on Dygert’s time. When Brown reached the base of the cobbled climb to the finish line, the time was agonisingly close – a nervous watch for Dygert. Gritting her teeth, the Australian tried as hard as she could, but in the end, Dygert remained the strongest of the day, only by five seconds.
“For sure I was nervous,” Dygert said in her post-race interview. “You know, that was a super strong finish for her [Brown]. I knew she was going to be one of the ones to watch today. I gave everything I had at the finish, and I was just happy to be enough.”
This is not Dygert’s first time in the rainbow bands in the time trial. In 2019, she won the title but with quite a considerable margin compared to today’s five-second gap. Four years ago, Dygert absolutely decimated the field and beat the then-favourite Anna van der Breggen by 1:32. In 2020, the 26-year-old rider returned to defend her title, but a horrific crash causing a serious leg injury meant that she couldn’t continue and has ever since been recovering from the incident, only returning to the WorldTour peloton this year.
“This is really special,” she said about her win today after the crash in 2020. “It’s not just special for me, it’s special for everyone behind me, the team, Canyon//SRAM, USA Cycling, my family, my personal team. This means a lot to us. It’s just trusting the plan and God’s plan, and I’m really thankful.”
She is such an exciting rider in this discipline, and seeing her back in action today after a long road to recovery proved that she is one of the most formidable riders. Over the past 12 months, Dygert has been targeting the World Championships and putting all her focus into this week’s events. Her last race was the Giro Donne in early July before taking a break from racing before the Worlds, unlike other riders who opted to race the Tour de France Femmes a couple of weeks ago. And it seems she had timed her peak performance to perfection, despite being ill.
But Chloe Dygert is Chloe Dygert, and she has a very special mindset as a rider – one of complete focus, determination and faith. She proved today that nothing – not a crash or an illness in the days leading up to the race – can stand in her way of winning.