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19-year-old Chloe Dygert looks like the future of U.S. cycling

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The Olympics were never something to which Chloe Dygert paid much attention, not when there were pick-up basketball games and a million other things on her mind while growing up near Indianapolis.

Not even four years ago, when the London Games captured the world’s imagination.

Dygert is a relative newcomer to bike racing. Not all that long ago, she was still focused on hoops and other more mainstream American sports, and the idea that she might someday compete for her country on two wheels amounted to – well, a preposterous proposition.

“Honestly, it was never really something I watched,” she said. “I was always playing outside or doing something. I never watched TV. I knew about the Olympics but it never really interested me.”

It has her undivided attention these days.

The 19-year-old Dygert is one of the sport’s bright young stars, sweeping the junior road race and time trial at last fall’s world championships. That showing piqued the interest of USA Cycling, and suddenly she was tapped to join its powerhouse women’s pursuit squad for the Rio Games.

After winning the world title in record time, they’re now the heavy favorites for Olympic gold.

“I haven’t had a lot of down time,” Dygert said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

She has spent most of that splitting time between her trade team, Twenty16-Ridebiker, and her Olympic pursuits. But with the Rio Games soon approaching, her attention has shifted entirely to the track.

“She’s an absolutely incredible athlete,” said Sarah Hammer, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and the elder stateswoman of the five-member pursuit squad. “I have really never seen anyone like her, how talented she is. I don’t even think she realizes how talented she is.”

Her father and brother introduced Dygert to cycling, but she didn’t devote herself to it until injuries began to mount on the basketball court. Her breakthrough came in 2013, when she began to land on the podium in elite events, but it was followed by a major setback: She was persuaded to return to the hardwood in high school and wound up tearing her ACL, derailing her for an entire cycling season.

It was her final foray into hoops.

Dygert recovered in time to race a few events late in 2014, and that set her up for a big 2015. She won her two junior world titles in Virginia, then raced a couple of mountain bike events for Marian University, her college squad. Then came the invitation from USA Cycling.

The women’s pursuit team had won silver four years ago in London. It wanted gold in Rio.

Cycling officials thought Dygert would be perfect to round out a squad anchored by Hammer that also includes workhorses Kelly Catlin, Jennifer Valente and Ruth Winder. And they were right, too, as they roared to the world record in March in their first major event.

“Chloe loves to go hard. Loves to smash it,” Hammer said. “But the cool thing is she has zero percent of an ego, and that’s so refreshing. She can turn it off as soon as the effort is over.”

Hammer is hardly Dygert’s only mentor. There is her fiance, Logan Owen, an up-and-coming rider in his own right. There are the coaches at USA Cycling, on the road and the track. And there are those involved in her trade team, including two-time Olympic time trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong.

“Chloe is what you’d call a natural talent,” Armstrong said. “She hasn’t surprised our team but she has surprised the world, and this is just the beginning for her.”

Dygert’s heart lies on the road, and one day she would love to represent the U.S. at an Olympics in that discipline. The speed, tactics and challenge of a longer, unpredictable and more glamorous race suits her style, rather than the short, all-out bursts of track cycling.

But while she never watched the Summer Games growing up, Dygert now appreciates the magnitude of the event and her opportunity to compete for a medal at such a young age – even if it is on the track.

“I see myself being a Kristin Armstrong, following in her footsteps, being a good all-around rider and a very good time trialist,” she said. “But I do enjoy the track, so it’s like, when the Olympics come around if I have the opportunity to do the track or time trial, I’m definitely open to anything.”

MORE: Kristin Armstrong, Taylor Phinney round out U.S. Olympic cycling team

2020 Tour de France standings

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

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A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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