COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — Chloé Dygert is back — just ask coach Gary Sutton’s stopwatch.
Sutton, the head of USA Cycling’s track endurance program, recently told VeloNews that Dygert is on schedule to attain her top form at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, just eight months after a horror crash at the 2020 UCI world road championships left Dygert with career-threatening injuries.
“She’s got a bit of work to do, but Chloé is back,” Sutton told VeloNews. “It’s been a slow process, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and now it’s a real buzz to see her on the track. My stopwatch tells me everything I need to know, and she’s in a very good position.”
Now, Dygert plans to compete in next week’s U.S. professional time trial championships in Knoxville, Tennessee, to test her racing fitness as she finalizes her training for Tokyo. Dygert is on the list of registered athletes for the individual time trial, but she is not on the list for the criterium or the road race.
VeloNews recently attended part of a training session with the U.S. women’s track endurance program and saw Dygert speed through several intervals on the 7-Eleven Velodrome in Colorado Springs. Dygert was not available for comment between her interval sets. After each individual effort, Dygert gasped for air and had to be helped off of her bicycle. A jagged scar now stretches across Dygert’s left thigh, just above the knee.
Sutton, who took over the program in 2017, said Dygert’s exhaustion after each effort was another sign that she is back to her old physical self. Dygert has built a reputation for being able to push herself to extreme levels during training sessions.
“She’s now able to do this in the lab as well — she falls off the trainer or spews in a bucket,” Sutton said. “That’s the old Chloé.”
Sutton’s comments and Dygert’s workout success are signs that she has recovered from the terrifying crash in Imola, Italy. Dygert went in as the defending world champion, and after overcooking a corner she slammed into a guardrail before coming to rest in a field alongside the road. The impact with the metal guardrail sliced Dygert’s right thigh open, and photos of her in the immediate aftermath showed a gaping wound above her knee. She was unable to finish the race, and was instead airlifted to a hospital in Bologna where she underwent surgery to repair cut and damaged ligaments.
In the days after the crash, USA Cycling officials said she was expected to make a full recovery. How long that recovery would take, however, was not known. In interviews after the crash, Dygert stated her intention to recover in time for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
Sutton said USA Cycling’s coaches and medical staff have adopted a cautious strategy to Dygert’s comeback over the past few months. While in recent days Dygert has graduated back to two-a-day training sessions, her training up to this point has been determined by her recovery.
“She’s been smart and there have been sessions where we’ve backed off,” Sutton said. “We still worry. We are relying on her honest feedback after each effort, and she’s smart and gives it to us. We’re trying to be careful so that she doesn’t get injured or go the other way.”
Dygert heads into the 2021 Olympics with a full slate of events, and on Thursday she was officially named to the U.S. squad competing in Tokyo. She plans to compete in the women’s road race, the individual time trial, and the Team Pursuit event on the track, where she is the anchor rider. The full slate is likely to test Dygert’s endurance and focus, as well as the health of her body.
Sutton said Dygert still has room to improve in the final push for the Olympics. She has approximately six weeks to go until the women’s road race. Sutton said he’s confident that Dygert will be ready for the races.
“Right now it’s about getting her stronger — we’re not where we need to be with her, but she’ll be where she needs to be in 50 days time,” Sutton said. “Her attitude is fantastic. Nobody trains harder than her, I can tell you that now. It’s special and it’s not a show.”