When Canyon-SRAM announced the signing of a four-year contract with Chloé Dygert in late 2020, the then-23-year-old was recovering from a horrific, career-threatening crash at the ITT World Championships in Imola that left her with an 80-percent lacerated leg. Only now is she finally riding the first stage race with her new team as injuries and illness forced her to take a step back after attempted comebacks.
After a total recovery period of two-and-a-half years, it was hard to predict what to expect from Dygert, now 26 years old, at La Vuelta Femenina. But already in the stage 1 team time trial, she showed that she was back, playing a key role in the runner-up finish for Canyon-SRAM.
In the closing stretch of stage 2, Dygert made a bold bid for the stage victory and red leader’s jersey, accelerating out of the bunch at the 500-metre mark. She was passed by Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) and Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) in the final metres and finished third on the stage. She now sits one second behind Vos in GC.
“I’m disappointed for sure. I knew attacking was my best option for a stage win, I just went a tad early. But I am very blessed and grateful to be healthy enough to be competing at the top level again,” Dygert said after the stage.
In 2021, Dygert’s recovery towards the Tokyo Olympics seemed to be on track when she won the US ITT championships in June. She went on to finish seventh in the Olympic ITT and win bronze with the US team pursuit squad on the track but was clearly in agony during her efforts and stopped the season early to allow her injuries to heal fully, undergoing additional operations to remove scar tissue.
The 2022 Omloop Het Nieuwblad was Dygert’s first European race with Canyon-SRAM, but her season was cut short once more when she was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus. After recovering from that, Dygert opted for surgery to treat her supraventricular tachycardia.
After that, she was finally pain-free and able to train for the upcoming road season without any setbacks. Dygert returned to competition at the Track World Cup in Canada and then lined up for this week’s La Vuelta Femenina, forming part of a strong team that had animated the spring Classics with its attacking mindset.
Only one second behind the overall lead, Canyon-SRAM continued this tactic on the Puerto de Rebate climb where Dygert, Kasia Niewiadoma, and Élise Chabbey all mounted attacks in order to reduce the size of the peloton.
“We wanted to race aggressive, and that’s what we did. The smaller the bunch, the better, but you can never discredit the ability of the sprinters,” Dygert explained the reasoning behind.
Although the peloton was down to about 30 riders at the top of the climb, many riders returned to the bunch after the descent, leading to a mass sprint for the stage win. Despite that, Dygert almost succeeded in pre-empting the sprinters but saw herself beaten in the end.
Stage 3, a mainly flat day on the plains of Spain, will be another opportunity for the American to chase success – although the peloton will now be forewarned – Dygert is the kind of rider that can pull off a plan even without the element of surprise.