By Martyn Herman
TOKYO (Reuters) – Had it not been for herat the world championships at Imola 10 months ago, the obvious question ahead of Wednesday’s women’s Olympic cycling time trial would have been who will come second behind American Chloe Dygert.
The 24-year-oldonly one way to ride: dial up the power to 10 from start to finish and empty the tank. The 22 km blast starting and finishing at Fuji International Speedway also looks tailor-made for riders who took the discipline to a new level at the 2019 world championships.
On a stormy day in Yorkshire, England, she went 90 seconds faster than reigning Olympic road champion Annaover a 30 km course, with one commentator remarking that “even the TV helicopter can’t keep up with her.”
A few months later, Dygert switched back to the track, breaking her own 3 km individualbefore leading her team to a team pursuit gold, outclassing Olympic champions Britain in the final.
But she was stopped in her tracks in Imola. As in Yorkshire, she was blowing the field away and was 26 seconds ahead at the middle checkpoint. Then she wobbled into a corner on a descent and hurtled into and over a steel railing and down a bank.
Shebut, more worryingly, sustained an open wound from mid-thigh to the knee. The damage was so gruesome that TV cameras cut away from the scene. The injury was not career-ending, but Dygert now has a scar like a shark bite as a grisly souvenir.
SEARING PACE AND JUGGLING ACT
WDygert was part of Sunday’s road race, but her focus has been squarely on the time trial and the track. Whether she has the same searing pace answered at the recent U.S.three-time champion Amber Neben by 27 seconds – a record margin of victory. Should she outpace the likes of world champion , Dygert will claim the medal her coach Kristin Armstrong took home for the last three Olympics.
She will then switch her attention to the velodrome, hoping to. It’s a juggling act she enjoys and says pays dividends. “As an athlete, doing the strength work on the track with those big gears, those big efforts, that’s what makes me the time trialist that I am,” Dygert, who won a silver in track in Rio, told Reuters at last year’s worlds.
The Dutch can only hope Dygert is not yet at full throttle after her accident. If she is, they are in trouble. “I don’t love cycling a bike. I thrive on winning and love to win. I don’t race to the podium; I race to win,” Dygert said. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Karishma Singh)