Chloe Dygert-Owen’s stage win Friday at the Colorado Classic was a surprising result, considering the day’s main obstacle was a category 1 climb that topped out at more than 2,800 metres of elevation. But no one was more surprised than the Sho-Air Twenty20 rider herself, who has returned from injury with an intimidating show of power.
“Definitely not,” was Dygert-Owen’s concise response to Cyclingnews’ post-stage question as to whether she was confident in her ability to perform coming into the stage. Asked to rank the climb from 1 to 10 compared with other climbs she’s faced, Dygert-Owen was once again to the point.
“For me, anything that goes up is a 10,” she said.
Brodie Chapman, the Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank rider who Dygert-Owen caught on the climb and then passed on the way back down the hill to the finish in Avon, had trouble swallowing Dygert-Owen’s modesty.
“Your legs say differently, apparently,” said Chapman, who was seated next to Dygert-Owen in the post-stage press conference.
Chapman initiated the attacks on the climb through Beavercreek up Bachelor’s Gulch, bringing along Israeli road champion Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM) as the pair distanced themselves from a select chase group containing most of the favourites.
Dygert-Owen jumped away from the chase group and bridged efficiently to the leaders, eventually overtaking them both and then losing the QOM at the top of the climb to Chapman by a bike throw. From there, however, it was all Dygert-Owen as she railed the descent and then held off Chapman and Shapira to win by 28 seconds.
“In hindsight,” Chapman said, “I think I went a little bit too hard too early, and I started to fade toward the end. But mad props to Chloe, who just reeled me in and there was nothing I could do about it. She was really impressive.”
Dygert-Owen’s performance so far this week in Colorado is made even more impressive by the fact that she has only recently returned to competition after recovering from a knee injury and concussion that had her sidelined for almost a year.
“I’ve come off a bunch of injuries, and it’s always a question whether my body would be able to handle this kind of pressure, this kind of effort,” Dygert-Owen said. “I’ve really worked hard. I’ve had the best support behind me. My coaches, Kristin Armstrong and Gary Sutton on the track, everybody else on team Twenty20, they were all there for my bad days and they really stuck with me.
“I’m really just starting to get my legs back and get the fire back,” Dygert-Owen said. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year.”