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Back 2019-09-27

Chloé Dygert Embraces Power and Precision of Time Trials

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Photo by Jo Jo Harper

Chloé Dygert, 22, was the talk of Harrogate after her emphatic time trial victory this week at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire. Many observers proclaimed it as her arrival at the top of the international cycling scene. For Zipp, Chloé (Sho-Air TWENTY20 Pro Cycling) has long been a familiar and friendly face. She grew up not far from the Zipp factory as part of an Indiana cycling family. Her uncle, Todd Dygert, works at Zipp in Indy. One of her junior championship jerseys from Richmond in 2015 already hangs in our office. So we were thrilled with Chloé’s victory and to have the chance to sit down with her a day later in Harrogate to talk more about it. Below is an edited transcript:

In Richmond as a junior in 2015, you won the time trial and road race. People said you were a discovery then. Now in Yorkshire, you’ve won the Elite Women’s time trial, and people again are saying you’re a discovery. What do you think about that happening four years apart?

I think the few injuries I’ve had kind of put my career on hold. Being able to come and perform here again hopefully will put me back on the map. (It should be noted that Dygert won an Olympic silver medal in Rio in 2016!)

Was the most significant injury the crash with a concussion at the 2018 Tour of California?

That one was hard, but every injury I’ve had has caused me to sit out and caused me to miss crucial racing. Every injury I’ve had big or small is enough to keep me sitting out. IT’s just nice to be back.

What has it meant to you have to a core group of supporters around you during those setbacks?

That is special. After the concussion things got really bad, just mentally I never knew if I was going to be at that top level again. I just really had those people behind me who believed in me.

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Photos by Jo Jo Harper

When you finished the time trial, you were really drained. Was that physical exhaustion or also something of an emotional release after such a performance?

It was definitely physical. I remember feeling some throw up come up in that final K! The last 3 or 4kms to go I was being told, ‘You have a big lead. Don’t push it in the corners. Just take it easy. Don’t risk anything.” But of course, I wanted to give it everything I had up that final drag.

It’s hard because I’ve had people tell me, ‘You're just dramatic. You just want to show off for the cameras. But honestly, I’d rather have nobody there so I can get off my bike and lay down and collapse. It’s just one of those things where I get off my bike and I’m being pulled in five different directions and my body is just Jell-O. Looking back, it was just a very physically draining moment and one of the hardest performances I’ve ever done.

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Photo by Jo Jo Harper

What was your strategy for the time trial given the rain and tricky conditions? Was our intension to start fast?

It was full gas. I knew that I wasn’t going to be climbing as well as Van der Breggen or Van Vleuten, so I thought to push it on the first bit, get as aero as possible. Just keep my cadence low and really push that big gear and then coming up to the climb just going as hard as I possibly could without going into the red zone. Just taking the corners as fast and safe as I possibly could. I gained all of my time in that first bit and only gained 30 some seconds in the final bit. They’re better climbers, but I was still able to get some time on the flats and descents.

You excel at time trials and team pursuits, these very intense and painful aspects of cycling. What is it about your personality that draws you to those areas?

I don’t know if it’s the pain…. Well, I guess it would be the pain! The competition. I love hurting more than anybody else. I love winning more than anybody else. I guess it all just correlates. I want to be the best, and that’s what I’m the best at. I just really want to push the limits on what I can do to get better and better.

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For an aero cockpit, Chloé went with an Zipp Vuka Aero base bar with Vuka Evo 110 extensions. For wheels, she selected the Super-9 Disc with 808 Firecrest... with pink decals. Photo by Velo Focus

Are there any particular lessons you’ve learned from working with Kristin Armstrong especially when it comes to aerodynamics?

We got on the track and did some aero testing. We were able to put together some final things, narrowing the bars, hand position… really just focusing… having my head low, trying not to look down and trying to get those last pieces put together and all those little bits that were going to make that 1 percent difference.

Was that mindset a factor in going with the deeper (82mm) 808 front wheel even on a tricky course?

For sure. There are some changes that would make me want to switch, but I remember a couple of years ago when I was racing the Tour of Gila. The boys had raced before us and one of the mechanics came over and said, ‘Oh, it’s too windy. You need to have 404s or even 101s on upfront.’ I remember thinking, ‘ok, I guess we’ll switch.’ I went out and raced and still won. But I was so frustrated that I didn’t stick with the 808. I knew I could handle it.

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Last September, Indiana native Chloé, who missed the world championships because of injury, visited the Zipp factory in Indianapolis.

Were the matching pink TT booties and Zipp wheel decals your idea?

It was really special to have that! My Uncle Todd works at Zipp so I sent him a message, ‘Do you think you could get me a pink disc?’ He asked if I had pink front decals for an 808, so he sent both!

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