Chloé Dygert: "Don't tell me I can't do something"

Already an eight-time world champion at 23, the American cyclist is eyeing the next six Olympics.

Eight-time world champion, world record holder, Olympic silver medallist.

That's a good start to any cycling palmarès, let alone one for someone still just 23 years of age.

Chloé Dygert is aiming big. The American wants to become one of her sport's biggest names – with a little help from her coach, triple Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong.

Major injuries in her career, which wiped out her 2014 and 2018 seasons, have only served to push her on more.

Bribed to start

Dygert almost didn't become an acclaimed cyclist.

"I had no interest; I didn’t care," she told Voxwomen. "I was a soccer player. I ran track and cross country. I played basketball. I wanted to play football."

It took a bribe from her father – a pair of sunglasses – for a 16-year-old Dygert to agree to race in the junior national championship in 2013.

But injury struck the year after. Dygert tore her anterior cruciate ligament, and didn't properly start racing seriously until she came back in 2015.

It was with quite the bang though – she won both the junior time trial and junior road race at the world championships on U.S. soil in Richmond, Virginia.

"I love the pain. I love the suffering," she explained to Bicycling magazine. "I think I fell in love with the competition and just everything you have to go through to be the best at cycling."

Self-criticism

Since then, Dygert has won seven world championships and an Olympic silver medal in the velodrome and set the individual pursuit world record (3:16.937).

And in 2019, the Indiana native stormed to her first world title on the road when she won the time trial in Yorkshire. But her will to win meant she didn't celebrate. "To me, it’s a goal. I show up to win the race. That’s what I came to do and what I worked so hard to do."

In fact, she found something to be unhappy at herself about.

"We did the same route as the U23 boys and I was 11th place in the U23 boys. I see that, and I think, why couldn’t I win?"

Kristin Armstrong influence

She has been coached by Armstrong, a three-time Olympic time trial champion, since 2016.

Armstrong's career longevity – she was a triathlete and cyclist for more than 20 years – is a source of motivation for Dygert.

"If I race as long as Kristin, I’ll be going to the next six Olympic Games, so that’s the goal," Dygert said to Bicycling.

At least one of those six Games are a reality, after USA Cycling confirmed her automatic selection in both track and road cycling for Tokyo 2020.

It seems Armstrong has found the perfect way to push her trainee on. Dygert finished second in the time trial at the 2019 U.S. nationals, but using Dygert's insatiable appetite for victory was all part of Armstrong's big plan.

"I wasn’t ready physically, [thinking] ‘I want to win now! Why am I not winning now?’ Kristin knew what she was doing the whole time.

"It would have been great to have won, but it was probably the best thing ever for me to lose, because then I worked so much harder."

Challenge

Dygert could yet break all sorts of records in cycling.

"I'm definitely the kind of person that if you tell me, I can't do something, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it better than you would ever think," Dygert said on the VeloNews 'Put Your Socks On' podcast.

There's a specific record she has her eye on: lowering that 3:16.937 in the individual pursuit.

"I want to break 3:10," she told Voxwomen.

However, that simply wouldn't be enough for Dygert, who wants an extra challenge. "But I won't go to altitude to do it."

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