This weekend's UCI Track World Cup final round at the Velo Sports Center in Los Angeles will provide a rare opportunity for US track athletes to compete against world-class competition in front of a home crowd, and team pursuit world champion Chloe Dygert is taking notice.
"It's really special," the 20-year-old told Cyclingnews this week. "My family didn't get to go down to Rio, so everyone is coming out here. I'm just really excited that they're all going to be here.
"I've only ridden on the track for like a year and we have this World Cup in LA, so I don't really see it as being such a big deal as it would be for someone who's been racing track their whole life and never had a World Cup race in the US," said the rider from Brownsburg, Indiana. "But it's still really awesome, and it worked out really well for me being able to bring my family out."
The UCI World Cup Championships last took place in the US in 2008 when Dygert was 11 years old. Now the 2016 team pursuit world champion and Olympic silver medalist is in LA trying to get her track legs back after six months off the boards.
"It's taking longer than I was hoping to get the track legs back," she said. “I don't feel like they're there yet, but hopefully by Friday night they'll be there."
Although the bulk of the racing takes place Saturday and Sunday, Dygert will have to qualify for the team pursuit Friday night with teammates Kelly Catlin, Jenn Valente and Ruth Winder.
As one of the top pursuit squads in the world, qualifying shouldn't be an issue for the US team, especially with Olympic gold medalists and world championship runners-up Great Britain choosing to send just three riders to LA, and obviously no team pursuiters. With the two teams so tightly matched – and with one win apiece in their most recent match ups, Dygert said she's disappointed there won't get a chance for a 'rubber match' in LA.
"It would be nice," Dygert said. "When I played basketball we'd have the same situation. We'd go up against a team that was really good in regionals or something and we'd boot it against them, and then the next year they would lose before they got back to us for a championship game, and it would always make me feel frustrated that we never got our redemption.
"So that's kind of how I feel," she continued. "Hopefully they'll be there at Worlds if we do have a team that goes in the team pursuit. It would be nice to get one last run at them."
Picking up the individual pursuit baton
Dygert is also adding another discipline to her track repertoire in Los Angeles, choosing to pick up the 3km individual pursuit in the absence of Sarah Hammer, the world record holder who won't be competing in LA.
"I've done an individual 3km or individual efforts in training up to Rio and other training things that we would do at camp," Dygert said. "I wouldn't do them all the time. I would do them every once in a while. So I'm not the best individual pursuiter because I don't really know how to pace myself well. But we're going to try it."
Although she lacks experience in the individual pursuit, Dygert has been getting some world-class coaching from Hammer, who competed in the Cali World Cup last week.
"What's so cool about it is Sarah has been super helpful and super nice," Dygert said. "For me, I had some running records and stuff when I was in school, and people started beating them and I would get so mad. But Sarah is so nice. She says, 'Chloe, I have all these records and I need people to beat them. I need people to get them.' She's so supportive and she's so nice about it.
"She has the track record here for the 3km at 3:31, and that's my goal, to try and beat that here. Then she has her world record of 3:22, and I'm going to go after that eventually. As long as she's happy about it I think I'm good."
A future on the road or on the track?
With everything Dygert has accomplished on the track at such a young age, it's easy to forget about her accomplishments on the road, where she swept the junior world championship time trial and road race in 2015. Now she's juggling both disciplines as she strives to figure out where her heart and her talent lie. Dygert says she is so new to the sport that she's still figuring out what kind of cyclist she wants to be.
"I've given that a lot of thought," she said. "There are days that I literally hate my road bike, like I just want to throw my bike, and then there are days when I feel the same exact way on the track bike. So it just depends on how bad I feel each day on the bike.
"I would like to continue to do both," she added. "It's kind of a goal of mine for Tokyo [2020 Olympics] to potentially do a track event and then hopefully be able to do the time trial and follow Kristin Armstrong's footsteps and get a gold medal in the time trial, then follow [Sarah Hammer's] footsteps and do really well in the track events."
With the UCI Track World Championships taking place in mid-April, Dygert's road season will take a slight detour, but she's hoping to have her road legs back by the Tour of California in May. Dygert started her 2017 road season with trade team Sho-Air/Twenty20 in Australia at the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but she's putting her road bike away for now.
"It is really late," she said of the world championships. "But we've worked it out with the team director and my coach to kind of make sure I'm getting the racing and riding in that I need to do to get to those big races.
"Coming back from [the UCI Track World Championships in] Hong Kong, I should be going to the Tour of the Gila, but I'd be getting there the day before it started and it wouldn't make sense," Dygert said. "So I'm going to skip that one and hopefully be ready to go for Redlands, then Tour of California and whatever else we have planned."
Thats's all down the road for now, however, as the next step in Dygert's 2017 season takes place tonight and this weekend at the Velo Sports Center in Los Angeles.
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