As Chloé Dygert stood atop the podium, after the most dominant time trial in world road cycling championships history, she had to remind herself to smile. The silver medalist, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen, wasn’t convinced.
“Are you happy that you won?” van der Breggen asked her on Sept. 24 in Yorkshire, Great Britain.
“I must not have looked or seemed very happy about it,” Dygert said recently. “I am told by several people that I don’t really show too much emotion, or not happy emotion, when I’m on the podium.”
Dygert let her bike riding leave the ultimate impression. She replayed her emphatic victory — by 92 seconds on an 18-mile course to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — with NBC Sports cycling host Paul Burmeister for a special edition replay that will air on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
It’s part of four nights of watchbacks:
2019 World Road Cycling Championships Special Edition TV Schedule (all 8 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel)
Monday: Women’s Time Trial (with Chloé Dygert)
Tuesday: Women’s Road Race (with Chloé Dygert)
Wednesday: Men’s Time Trial (with Rohan Dennis)
Thursday: Men’s Road Race (with Lawson Craddock)
Dygert, at 22, became the youngest man or woman to win a world title in the road time trial. But as she waited for the last riders to finish, and as she received her gold medal and rainbow jersey, she kept thinking about how she could have — should have — gone faster.
Not pushing enough on a descent. Being too conservative on a turn. Most vivid, the line she took with 1km to go, just outside her hotel, that took her way outside of the barriers.
“If I see it, I’m not even going to watch it because I just know how frustrated I am with it,” she said. “It drives me nuts. I get fired up talking about it.”
It fits Dygert’s personality. Growing up outside Indianapolis, she was moved from a girls’ soccer team to the boys. “I was a little too mean and aggressive,” she said. She played basketball but broke too many bones — her own and those of other girls. “Not on purpose,” she said, “but I was just so much bigger and naturally so much stronger.”
She wanted to be Larry Bird. Then she ran cross-country and wanted to be Steve Prefontaine. She picked up cycling in earnest around age 15. At 18, she swept junior world titles in the road race and time trial. At 19, she won an Olympic team pursuit silver medal on the track.
Dygert goes into races expecting to win and with a goal to hurt more than every other cyclist. It was evident at the end of her time trial on the wet roads of Yorkshire, collapsing on the pavement when she dismounted her bike.
“If I don’t perform and train how I should so I can be like that at the end of a race, it’s almost like it doesn’t count,” said Dygert, whose coach is three-time Olympic time trial champion Kristin Armstrong.
Dygert’s intensity manifests in her warm-up playlist: There’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. But the majority being songs from “Rocky” film soundtracks. The crescendo is music from “Rocky IV” when Balboa is fighting Ivan Drago.
“So every time I hear that song now [outside of racing], I have to turn it off because I can’t handle it,” she said. “It’s amazing, the power of music.”
Cycling is the rare Olympic sport with a world championships every year, including Olympic years. The 2020 World Championships are still scheduled for late September.
Dygert could get the chance to defend her title and better her fourth-place finish from the road race in 2019. She missed the breakaway last year when her chain dropped, and she had to manually remount it.
Then in 2021, Dygert is expected to race three events in Tokyo — road race, road time trial and team pursuit on the track. She will try to succeed Armstrong as the time trial gold medalist and lead the U.S. to its first women’s Olympic title on the track.
It would be historic. What it might not be is completely satisfying.
“Even when I win, I’m still not happy,” Dygert said. “It’s very hard, and I bet it is frustrating for those girls [other cyclists] to see that, especially when they bring it up to me. I do feel bad. That’s who I am. That’s not going to change. I want to be the best at anything and everything. I want to beat the boys. I don’t care.”
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