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Chloe Dygert on preparing for the cycling road world championships without racing

The time trial world champion will aim to defend her title on Thursday and will race on the road on Saturday, as well.

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Chloe Dygert has a closet full of rainbow stripes, but she hasn’t been able to wear them.

The current world champion on the track and in the individual time trial has spent the months since the coronavirus pandemic began at home in Boise, Idaho where she trains with former Olympian Kristin Armstrong. The UCI Road World Championships in Imola, Italy will be her first time at a start line since February, when she dominated the podium at track worlds in Berlin.

Dygert’s performances at both the time trial and road race during last year’s worlds in Yorkshire were indeed impressive (recall her brave chase of Annemiek van Vleuten in the final 40km of the road race), yet she hasn’t raced on the road since the soggy day in the UK last September.

Is it possible to prepare for worlds without the intensity that only comes from being in the bunch? If anyone has the fortitude and determination to try, it’s Dygert. We spoke with her before she traveled to Italy.

When was your last race?

Berlin, Germany, track worlds in February. Road worlds was my last road race.

Is it possible to prepare for worlds without racing? If so, how? 

I think so, but we will find out next week. The biggest benefit is having Kristin Armstrong as my coach. I didn’t race much last year either, so I really am used to this preparation. I’d say what you can get from racing, I can get on the track. I just spent about two weeks in Colorado Springs training on the velodrome, and that really has always been the game changer in my training. It’s what gives me my last bit of strength and fitness. Being back in Boise I’m just fine tuning and doing the exact prep I did before Yorkshire.

Dygert broke the individual pursuit world record at the 2020 UCI track cycling world championships in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Are you the type of rider that ‘needs’ racing to train, or are you content doing your own program? Have you missed racing? How have you been able to replace or simulate the feeling you get from racing during your solo training? 

If I am being honest, I really don’t even like bikes. I do struggle most days even wanting to ride. But my competitiveness and desire to win outweighs my hatred for training. I train most days as if I’m racing, I compete with myself. I have to complete my ride 110 percent or else Kristin will be hearing about it for the next week. I definitely have FOMO, but FOMO with myself if I don’t do what I was supposed to do.

How has it been going through the uncertainty of the pandemic, of not racing, of being at home, etc. with with your team and staff?

Control your controllables. I think that’s been something my team and I have had to deal with for the past four years so this, especially since it’s not been an injury, has really been a piece of cake.

Has it been hard to see your competitors in Europe racing? 

I don’t really care honestly, I know I can only do what I can do. I have complete trust in what Kristin has me doing now.

How did you maintain the mental/emotional focus when the possibility of having worlds was so up in the air? 

It just goes back to controlling your controllables. Whether it happened or not, Tokyo is next and in order for me to be the best in Tokyo I would need to train as if worlds was going to happen. Kristin would still have me “race” but here in Boise.

chloe dygert
Dygert on the podium with Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten after winning the elite time trial at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate, England. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

What have the moments been like in the last six months that have been really challenging? Have you had any breakdowns? How do you recover? 

Many breakdowns. If I don’t do what I think I should or want to do I will lose it. Many phone calls to my dad. He always seems to be able to make it better. If I have a good ride the next day then I’ll be over it.

What are your emotions like now that worlds is happening? 

I’m just excited to race.

What do you think about the TT course? The road course? 

I’m looking forward to the TT. Looks like a good course for me. The road race will be just like last year, I have no idea how it’ll go, I’ll just hang on as long as I can.

Finally – has there been a silver lining to not racing this summer?

I like being home so that’s been nice.