One of the best track riders in recent years with seven World Champion titles and two Olympic medals, USA's Chloé Dygert also aims to make the most of her raw power on the road. It started off in impressive fashion with the 2019 World Championships on the road, where she took the rainbow jersey in the time-trial and finished 4th of the road race. Since then, the 25-year-old star has suffered serious misfortunes with a crash in the roadside barriers at the 2020 Worlds and the Epstein-Barr virus earlier this season. Dygert says she's been used to setbacks since she was a kid, and she's always come back stronger. She's now in her "last bit of rehab work" as she aims to chase the yellow jersey next month with Canyon//Sram Racing.
Almost three months after being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, how are you?
Every day is a new day. Sometimes I’ll have really good days, and other days feel like I took three steps back. It’s been a very frustrating process but I’m just trusting those around me as we're doing everything we can with the team, USA Cycling and my doctors. I'm in Indiana right now and tomorrow [on June14th] I fly back to Colorado Springs to do my last bit of rehab work. I’m just taking it day by day and hoping I can overcome this soon because I still have a lot of things that I want to do this season. I planned at the beginning of the year to do Nationals, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and the Worlds. So those are still on my list to accomplish. It’s just a matter of if my body can get there in time.
How do you hang on when you can’t be a rider?
I go back to my faith and I think of this being just God’s plan. And as much as I don’t agree with it all the time, I know that in the end I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in his terms. I remember the first injury that I had when I was a little girl, it was a back injury. I’m very used to setbacks. It is frustrating, especially when I’m having to sit out for such a long period of time but I do think it’s an advantage to have been able to mentally overcome these physical setbacks. I struggle with it, every day, it’s not easy. But it also makes it easier when things go wrong on race days. Like, in the 2019 World Championships, when the time-trial was delayed because of the weather conditions, I remember it being such a huge deal for all the girls. For me, yes, it might have been a little bit frustrating, but I didn’t want it to affect me, because everybody is in the same boat. It’s just something that we have to adapt to and we have to overcome.
How did road racing enter your horizon?
I was bribed! I started mountain biking. And I was told: “If you do the Junior Nationals on the road, you can use your brother's wheels on your mountain bike”. I was like: “Yeah! Ok, I’ll go.” That’s how I got into road, and then I went to the junior Worlds in 2015, the year before the Rio Olympics. USA Cycling had access to all my data and everything, and with that, I was put in touch with Andy Sparks at the time, the coach on the track, and he invited me out for a camp, just to see where I’d fit in and how I would perform. It got me to Rio and now I’m a dual discipline athlete.
Were you also following the sport as a fan?
I was more interested in doing things rather than watching them! My dad would talk about Lance Armstrong of course. In America, when you think of cycling, when you don’t know anything about it, you think of the Tour de France! So the fact that now we have a Women’s Tour de France is a huge accomplishment.
So have you been talking about the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift with your father?
Of course! I’ve been talking about it with everybody! It’s such a huge goal! It’s a goal for all these women to be part of the first ever Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. It’s a huge step forward for all of us and I hope this is just the benchmark, the starting ground to what it’s gonna become. I hope there’s gonna be time trials in the next years, that it will just grow and become the all time best women’s event cycling can have.
The eight stages will bring different types of challenges. How do you approach them?
We have a super strong team, so if I’m there I’m gonna do what’s good for me but also for the team. If that means I work for the team the whole time, that’s what I’m gonna do. This is such a huge opportunity. Being on the top step, it doesn’t matter if it’s me or someone else wearing our colours. It would be such an honour to be part of it and help us go for that yellow jersey.
How do your abilities on the track translate on the road?
I do enjoy being in a peloton and I always set my standards high. Everybody makes it sound that it’s such a hard thing, being in the peloton. I actually was told that I probably wouldn’t make it in the front group in my first European race, and that was the World Championships in Yorkshire. Lizzie Deignan said, and it stuck with me: “You either have that instinct or you don’t.” I think I have been blessed with… I know in my head where I should go. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, but at least I know. I can’t wait to race more because I do have the confidence in my performance, I do have the confidence in my training, I know I have the strength to accomplish the goals that I want to accomplish. It’s about getting the experience, the time on the bike, with the team, and really learning how to work as a team and focusing on that dynamic to pull together the win.