Dygert-Owen clears the deck at Colorado Classic

Chloe Dygert-Owen, a seven-time world champion on the road and track, burst back onto the road scene this week at the Colorado Classic after nearly 18 months of fighting through multiple injuries.

Dygert-Owen swept all four stages at the Colorado race, including winning the stage that climbed up and over Bachelor's Gulch at more than 2,750 metres. She won all four stages with late solo moves and relied on her power and time-trialling ability to hold off the peloton.

The Sho-Air Twenty20 rider won the overall by 2:37 over Brodie Chapman (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) and by 2:57 over third-placed Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM). 

The past 18 months have been a difficult path for Dygert-Owen following a hard crash at the 2018 Tour of California women's race that left her with a serious concussion. A knee injury followed, knocking the five-time track world champion – three in the team pursuit and two in the individual pursuit – off her track calendar for the season.

Dygert-Owen won the Joe Martin Stage Race in April and was second at the Tour of the Gila in May. She suffered through the Tour of California, then had a series of podium finishes in time trials, culminating with a win in the individual time trial at the Pan-Am Games earlier this month.

"Last year after the concussion there was a point where my training had kind of come together again, and then I had another injury that sat me out all winter," Dygert-Owen said. "Back then, I was able to climb pretty well, so that was a pretty big milestone. So I kind of thought that I was able to climb, but I didn't think that I would be able to climb with these ladies here.

"This has definitely been a big motivation, and it's great training," she said. "I'm really just thankful for my coaches being able to get me back on track. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it without the team, without them, so it's just great."

Getting her confidence back

Dygert-Owen admitted that since her crash and concussion in California, she has lacked confidence riding in the pack. In each of her four wins this week, she kept one hand on the bars for her victory salutes, and she said it was no coincidence.

"At California, I went into it feeling fine, but then everybody was asking, 'Oh, how does it feel after having been out for a year?' I think that really messed up my head," Dygert-Owen said. "I was definitely really nervous in that race. Although it wasn't an all-European field at this race, it was nice to have Canyon-SRAM there, following their wheels and getting my confidence back. 

"It was really just about trying not think about it. I had a strong team behind me to keep me upright, and I'm just working on staying at the front of the peloton. It's all coming together now, but it's taking a lot of time. I'm still not comfortable, but it's getting better and better every time I race."

Dygert-Owen is now focused on the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, in the UK, next month. She's not an automatic selection for the time trial or road race, but she's hoping that USA Cycling picks her for both. The performance this week in Colorado certainly won't hurt.

"I came into this race, I wouldn't say 100 per cent fresh," she said. "I've been in Colorado Springs doing some stuff on the track. I did some road stuff. I just got back from Lima, Peru, from the Pan American Games. Pretty much everyone on the team had a little bit of a head cold, so all of us are trying to get over that. 

"I came into this race trying to make it as hard as possible, because if it wasn't hard enough [coach] Kristin [Armstrong] was going to make me go home and train even more."

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