Chloe Dygert is the current time trial world champion and world record holder in the individual pursuit. Voxwomen’s Laura Winter caught up with Dygert, who has been isolating at home, to chat about training, her world championship victory and more.
Voxwomen, a partner of Peloton, takes you behind the scenes of women’s cycling and aims to inspire and motivate women who ride.
Voxwomen: Chloe, whereabouts are you at the moment and how are you coping in lockdown?
Chloe Dygert: I’m in Boise, Idaho, living on my own. It’s been really nice to just kind of chill and relax. I’ve still been able to train. You can still get out and do some stuff if you wanted, but I’m kind of on a break right now so I’m not doing too much. But it’s been good.
Voxwomen: What’s your training schedule? You’re having a break, because there’s no racing. And all of those races we’re used to seeing you build up into on the road now—Colorado Classic, Joe Martin Stage Race, Amgen Tour of California—are not happening. So what does day-to-day look like for you at the moment?
CD: Right now I’m just really focusing on strength training and maintaining—because I’m very, very injury prone. So I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m staying strong and not giving up on everything I need to do to stay healthy. I’m riding every once in a while. Every other day or so I’ll get on the trainer and ride Zwift really easy. But I should start training here in the next few days.
Voxwomen: How many months off have you had?
CD: About a month.
Voxwomen: have you enjoyed that? Or has it been a little bit of a transition? Because it’s so difficult when you are an athlete and your whole life is training and racing to suddenly stop.
CD: My coach is Kristen Armstrong. She jokes around a lot whenever people ask, ‘oh what’s Chloe doing? What does she do during her break? Does it drive her crazy?’ She always says that I am so good at shutting it off. If she gives me an off day, like I will literally do nothing. I don’t need to walk; I don’t need to do strength work; I don’t do absolutely anything. So it really doesn’t bother me. If I don’t have to ride bikes, I don’t want to ride bikes—not at all. This break’s been really refreshing. But when it’s go-time again, I’ll be able to get back on my bike and be able to enjoy it again.
Voxwomen: So you can really compartmentalize between off the bike and on. It’s like there’s no lukewarm with you. You’re hot or you’re cold.
CD: Right, 100 percent.
Voxwomen: So you are on Zwift, and of course you are on the Wattbike as well. What kind of stuff are you doing on the Wattbike when you are in full training and when you are gearing up and doing intervals and workouts?
CD: It’s really nice. Back before Rio (Olympics in 2016), was my first time on the Wattbike and doing the specific training. That’s what I loved: When you got on the Wattbike you knew you were going to be doing something hard; you knew you were going to be doing something worthy. I remember every workout I’ve ever done on a Wattbike: doing team pursuit effort type stuff; simulation things; being on for 20 seconds or 40 seconds; and then still being on but pretending you’re in the draft and backing it off, but keeping the same cadence; sprinting efforts that I will actually throw up in.
Voxwomen: I’ve seen the pictures on Instagram of you crouched over a waste bin.
CD: Being on the track, I’ve definitely dry-heaved before—never thrown up, I don’t think. But the Wattbike, I don’t know what it is about it, you can give that extra one percent or something.
Voxwomen: Let’s look back then over your career, going back to the start. Were you very active in sporting as a kid? Was an active lifestyle and sport just part of who you were?
CD: Yeah, growing up my dad had a little BMX track built in our yard. Then it turned into a mile-long mountain-bike track. Cycling was always there. It was just I had no interest; I didn’t care. But I had always ridden a bike. I couldn’t even tell you the first time I rode without training wheels. It was just a way of life in our family. I was a soccer player. I ran track and cross country. I played basketball. I wanted to play football—my dad wouldn’t let me. But, yeah, very active. But just very injury prone. In sixth grade was when I had my first injury, as a runner.
Cycling was not on the program at all. I just kept getting injured. I had surgeries. And it was just kind of my dad’s way of getting me to stay active. Actually, the first race I did was a bribe. I was bribed by using my brother’s Zipp wheels. And if I won I got a pair of Oakleys. So of course I had to do it. So that was the start of the career, in 2013 I think.
Voxwomen: You’re brining up injuries so much, and I think that’s something that’s actually very useful for those listening, how you maintain such a positive mentality towards your sports when you have been injured so much. How do you overcome those injuries and how do you stay positive and stay focused when it feels like life is just throwing one thing after another at you?
CD: I think that ties in really well with the situation we’re in now. I’ve had setbacks my entire life. Right now, with the Olympics being postponed, I know so many athletes that probably never had a setback in their life, or have no idea how to cope with this situation. And for me it’s just like ehh, ok, whatever, next year, great, perfect. It’s something I’ve literally been dealing with my whole life so I don’t really think much of it now.
A setback could be absolutely anything. I think definitely the scariest one was my concussion. I’ve had setbacks before and I’ve always able to come back. I wasn’t really ever too worried. But having that specific one, I didn’t have my strength back. It took all season to get back to where I should be. And that was a couple months before world championships last year. When I tore my ACL in 2014, I had so many of my friends say, ‘you’re going to come back stronger.’ And that was one of my first injuries coming into the sport. And of course you’re young. You don’t’ know. It’s one of your first injuries. You’re just worried and you’re thinking, ‘this is it. I won’t have my strength back. I’m done.’ And I had so many people saying ‘you’re going to come back even stronger. You’re going to be so strong. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be back.’ And that’s how you have to look at it.
But again, it doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it. You have to continue therapy. You have to continue anything and everything you need to do to make sure that it gets back. With the concussion and the knee surgery, the concussion happened over a year and a half before I got my strength back. The knee surgery happened just under a year before. I had to work. The struggles that I had mentally, wanting to quit. You had to keep going. That’s definitely the hardest part. But you just have to believe and trust and know you’ll get back eventually.
Voxwomen: Talk me through your memories of that day in Yorkshire (world championships 2019), the time trial.
CD: I go into every race thinking I’m going to win. I don’t want that to sound cocky, but I don’t show up to a race to just podium. I don’t work the way I work to just show up to get third place. What’s the point of even going? Two years prior I did the Norway world championships on six weeks of training. I thought I was going to win, I really did. And I got fourth place. But I was not fit. I was not healthy. I had the hip injury. Having that in the back of my head, knowing that I’m fit now—I’ve never raced these girls when I’ve been fit—I went into it thinking that I could win. I had this confidence. But the race had gotten postponed, 30 minutes or something. Again, it’s a setback; I didn’t think anything of it. Everyone has to do it. The rain, everybody’s going to be in it; it’s not just me. I’m not worried about it. I wasn’t stressed. I was nervous. But I knew the course like the back of my hand. I’d ridden it only a few times, but I knew it. I knew how many times I needed to cross the center line. I know every bit. I still do.
I remember every kilometer thinking of Annemiek (van Vleuten) and (Anna) van der Breggen, they’re going one to two seconds faster than me. I need to push a little bit more. I felt like I was constantly on my edge. I knew I needed to make up time on the first section, because climbing is not my thing. The second half I knew was going to be tough.
I didn’t know how much I was up. Annemiek and Van der Breggen didn’t come through the time split until I was about 7km out. At this point Ina (Teutenberg, in the follow car) has her accent and she’s yelling and the radio’s kind of muffled. The first time she told me a time check I thought she said I was down. So I’m like, ‘full gas, keep going!’ I remember getting to 3km to go and she was like, ‘you’re up! Chill! Don’t take any risks!”
Looking back at it, I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘you would have been eleventh in the men’s.’ How I work is, ‘well, why couldn’t I have been top ten? Yes, I won the race and that’s great, but what’s next now? Why couldn’t I have been better? What could have I done to have been better?’
Voxwomen: I think that’s the DNA of a champion. That’s your makeup, isn’t it? To constantly think: This is great; history made; what’s next?
Ok, final question. You mentioned that the time you did to break that world record in February (in individual pursuit), you still weren’t happy with it—3:16.937. What’s the dream then?
CD: I want to break 3:10, but I won’t go to altitude to do it.
Voxwomen: Wow, oh my gosh, that’s insane! Thank you so much, Chloe. Good luck this season.