Chloé Dygert: I’m bummed to miss Paris-Roubaix but I can’t take risks this year

US champion returns to racing after latest setback, with all roads now pointing towards the Olympics

Clock17:18, Thursday 21st March 2024
Chloé Dygert is the current US national champion

© Getty Images

Chloé Dygert is the current US national champion

Chloé Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) has had her fair share of setbacks in the past few years, and she’s having to come to terms with another one as she starts her 2024 season with a downgraded set of expectations.

Having scrapped her season debut at the Tour Down Under due to an achilles tendon injury, the time trial world champion began her season at the Classic Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday. She’ll ride several major Spring Classics over the next few weeks, but without the same hopes of success and, crucially, without a visit to the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

Dygert believes she’s still on track for the Paris Olympics in the summer, where she’ll race on the road and the track, but the Games have now become effectively the sole focus of her season.

“This was a big year for me, I had a lot of goals, so I am bummed,” Dygert told GCN at the start of Brugge-De Panne, where she went on to sprint to sixth.

“Of course, I’d like to be 100% for everything, but at the end of the day, the Olympics are the main goal for me, so I can’t be too bummed. I’m just preparing for that now.”

After De Panne, Dygert will race Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, followed by the Tour of Flanders the following Sunday. She’ll then skip Paris-Roubaix and return at the Ardennes Classics with Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Vuelta a Burgos is on her programme in May, before the Olympics in late July and early August. She is also scheduled to go straight onto the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

“I’m not worried about the Olympics at this point,” Dygert said. “We had the plan made for the Olympics at the end of last year, blending road and track, and I'm still happy with it.

“I’m really fortunate to have Kristin Armstrong as my coach, she had that balance throughout her entire career. She guides me and prepares me perfectly for the events that matter most.”

‘She wants to do Paris-Roubaix but we need to wait’

The biggest ‘bummer’, as Dygert would put it, is Paris-Roubaix, a race she has her heart set on, which seems to suit her rouleur capabilities perfectly, but which she’s been unable to race since its debut in 2021.

“I’m actually really sad to miss Paris-Roubaix. It’s a big goal of mine, but with the Olympics it’s too much of a risk with all my injuries and everything,” Dygert said.

“I didn’t want to risk it, so just focusing on the Olympics this year. Then next year we’ll really do the road scene.”

Speaking to Canyon-SRAM director Magnus Bäckstedt, a former winner of the men’s Paris-Roubaix, that sense of disappointment appears even stronger.

“She wants to do Roubaix but I think we need to keep her healthy and injury-free over a winter before we attempt that one. “When she’s 100% fit, she’s going to be capable of winning it, but we need to wait for that,” Bäckstedt told GCN.

“It definitely was not easy [to hold her back], but if you’ve got a good reason, sooner or later she will come around.”

Bäckstedt underlined Dygert’s troubled couple of years as the primary reason for exercising caution.

“You’ve got to remember, she did half a season last year, and that itself was a step up from the year before. She is one of the best athletes in the world, but sometimes you need to hurry slowly with her.”

A string of setbacks

Dygert seemed destined for the stars when she stormed to the time trial world title in 2019 but her troubles began at her title defence the following year, when she suffered a career-threatening slash to her left quadricep. She returned to take a silver medal on the track in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, but she only managed one road race in 2022 due to a cocktail of issues that included Epstein-Barr Virus, an arrhythmia in the heart, and follow-up surgery on her quad.

She returned to racing in May 2023 and put together a string of races that saw her win the US road race-time trial double, and the world time trial title, but her 2024 preparations were ruined by what has now been revealed to be a recurring achilles tendon issue.

“It just wouldn’t go away 100%. She was able to continue to ride but not train fully,” Bäckstedt explained. “In hindsight, it could possibly work out well because she’s done a tonne of base but hasn’t pushed herself particularly hard.”

The coming races, according to both Dygert and Bäckstedt, are simply about laying some of those building blocks in place and getting back into the race rhythm again. For all Dygert’s talent, it’s about simply coming through unscathed and, for someone so scarred by setbacks, it’s about trying not to over-think what next punch in the gut might await around the corner.

“It’s one of those things, I think about it all the time, but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to ride,” Dygert told GCN.

“If something happens, then it happens – it’s out of my control. I just have to make the best of it and keep going.”

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