With “KC” stickers on their bikes, the U.S. women’s team pursuit team took gold at the world track cycling championships. They did it in remembrance of former team member Kelly Catlin, who died by suicide last March.
“This one is super special,” said Chloe Dygert, who earned Rio Olympic silver on a team with Catlin. “This is our first world championships since Kelly. To win here, for her, it means a lot. It’s very emotional. We had her in our hearts this whole time.”
Dygert, Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams clocked 4 minutes, 11.235 seconds to defeat Olympic champion Great Britain by nearly two seconds in the final in Berlin.
A new-look U.S. pursuit team is jelling at the right time, five months before the Olympics.
“This is an accomplishment, but we’re going to put it behind us,” said Dygert, knowing the U.S. has never won an Olympic women’s track cycling title. “We have way more to do. This is a stepping stone. Olympics is what matters. This is training, basically.”
The team pursuit is a 4000m event where heats have two teams positioned exactly opposite of each other on the track. Times are determined by a team’s third finisher.
The U.S. — world champion in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — dipped to seventh place in 2019 without key team members Catlin and Dygert.
“We don’t talk about it every day, but if there’s something going and it reminds us of Kelly, we’re not afraid to talk about it,” said Dygert, who missed part of 2019 after a May 2018 road cycling crash that caused a concussion. “Kelly, bring her up, there’s jokes, everything. Kelly’s here. Kelly’s with us all the time.”
The U.S. team that prevailed in Berlin included two newcomers in this Olympic cycle in Williams and White.
“I’m 25, and I’d like to think that I’m still young, yet somehow I’m the oldest on this new team,” said Valente, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado. “Because of all the new faces, people don’t really know what were capable of, and we think that works to our advantage.”
White started riding track in March 2018 after experience in road cycling and cyclo-cross. She made her track worlds debut last year as part of the seventh-place U.S. team. The Americans clocked 4:23.721 in 2019, more than seven seconds slower than in the same round in 2018 and 12 seconds slower than the American record set in Wednesday’s qualifying round.
Williams, this year’s rookie team member, converted from being a mile runner at Vanderbilt.
“We do have great relationships on and off the bike, and that’s huge for this time around,” Dygert said. “I feel like before Rio, this environment wasn’t as healthy as it is now. And that’s definitely a game-changer.”
NBC Olympics senior researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from Berlin.
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