If anybody questioned Chloe Dygert Owen’s raw talent and stamina, her Colorado Classic performance should have destroyed any doubt. The 22-year-old Sho-Air Twenty20 rider dominated the international field, winning all four stages in dramatic fashion and on varying terrain. Throughout the race, fellow Colorado Classic competitors acknowledged the unstoppable force nicknamed “bug.”
“She’s a hard one to reel in,” said Australian road race champion Brodie Chapman (Tibco-SVB), who finished second overall, 2:37 back.
Surprisingly, the one person who often doubts her abilities is Dygert Owen herself. Despite her many accomplishments, the Olympic silver medalist and multiple-time world record holder admits that she still struggles with self-doubt.
“I could be throwing up in the trashcan and I still have doubts if I’ve gone hard enough,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always struggled with. But that’s where my teammates and coach come into play and help me.”
Part of the reason why Dygert Owen’s biggest competitor is her own mind, stems from a tumultuous 2018 season. Dygert Owen endured a barrage of injuries following a string of crashes, the worst of which occurred after a pile-up at the 2018 Tour of California.
“The crash cockeyed my body,” she said. She suffered a concussion—she estimates her third or fourth—and a battered pelvis. Only a couple weeks later she was back racing in Boise where everything was amplified. The heat felt more intense and she began blacking out. She knew things weren’t normal despite the fact that an MRI indicated her brain was fine.
“I thought, ‘I feel ok. I don’t have a headache, so I’m fine.’ But I wasn’t,” she said. She grew frustrated with people who didn’t believe her when she said, “I’m not ok.”
Yet the Indiana-native, who said her life is full of injuries, is skilled at rebounding. In fact, she came to the sport of cycling after an ACL tear sidelined her from playing high school basketball. After a year of recovery from her cycling injuries, with support from friends and family, Dygert Owen said she’s finally feeling back to normal—with one exception: her personality has changed.
“I have a short fuse now,” she said, and admitted that having less patience and a hot temper impacts her relationships. “I really found out who was on my side.”
The short fuse doesn’t impact her bike racing though: “I don’t get mad on my bike. I feel if you get angry [on the bike], you get careless and mistakes happen. My mentality on my bike is to win.”
And if winning is what drives her, pain is the copilot. Dygert Owen acknowledged she loves being in pain, pushing her limits.
“Whenever I’m on the track [with my] head in the trashcan—I love that feeling. ‘What more could I do?’ It’s not because I want to show off. It’s because I want to be my best, and I know I have the best coaches telling me what to do to be my best.”
For Dygert Owen, pain is synonymous with doing her best.
Racing her bike around tight turns in a peloton of 100 riders is actually where Dygert Owen seems most present. She gets flustered, however, going through the daily tasks that many of us do routinely. She doesn’t drive, for instance. She doesn’t like going to the grocery store or getting gas.
Baby steps are what help get her to the next point, she said.
“Just get in the car. Don’t think about getting gas, yet. Turn on the car. And then drive down the street,” she said.
Back at the Colorado Classic, where so much emphasis was placed on the event’s status as the sole women’s-only pro cycling event in North America, Dygert Owen simply focused on herself. Sure, the race drew a significant crowd, but whether or not there were throngs of roadside spectators didn’t really matter to the driven racer, as long as she reached her goals. And there’s really just one big goal right now: Olympic gold.
“I understand and support those women who are activists making headway [in women’s cycling],” Dygert Owen said. “But I’m just here to race my bike—wherever, however, whenever. I have my goals and they’re bigger. I’d love to go back to the Olympics and take home a gold in the team pursuit.”