GOLDEN — Through dominance borne out of versatility from sprints to climbs, Chloe Dygert has drained much of the suspense out of the Colorado Classic and turned it into a showcase for the skills that make her one of America’s top young riders.
Having won the first two stages in the mountains, Dygert broke open Stage 3 Saturday on the last of seven 9.1-mile laps to win the day and carry a comfortable lead in the overall standings of a minute and 36 seconds into Sunday’s final stage in Denver.
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As the peloton began the final lap under the famous “Howdy Folks!” arch on Washington Street in downtown Golden, Dygert burst away to claim a short but steep queen of the mountain bonus and quickly opened up a 30-second lead. For a while it looked as if the peloton couldn’t catch her, but about halfway through the lap they had her lead down to eight or 10 seconds. Just when it looked as if the stage might have an exciting finish, she pulled away again. She had a comfortable gap coming back into downtown Golden and won the stage by five seconds, coasting through the finish line.
“I don’t think they let her go,” ALP Cycles rider Ayesha McGowan said of Dygert’s pursuers. “I just think they couldn’t catch her.”
Dygert’s versatility has been the story of the tour.
“Chloe can do it all,” said Sho-Air Twenty20 teammate Jennifer Valente, who finished Saturday’s stage at the front of the peloton. “That makes (her) a threat — in a race like this and then looking to the future — on all kinds of courses and disciplines.”
Dygert, a 22-year-old from Indianapolis and Olympic silver medalist in team pursuit, said her tactics on the last lap came on the fly after she nailed the QOM climb.
“I had that gap, I looked back and I saw some heads hang,” Dygert said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s just keep this going for as long as I can.’ I knew Jen was back there, getting ready for the sprint, so I knew either way, we were going to have a solid day.”
Winning the Colorado Classic is important to her, but there’s something else on her mind. She hasn’t yet made the team for the UCI world championships that will be held Sept. 22-29 in Yorkshire, England. In track cycling, two of the three spots are filled and the third will be a discretionary pick.
“It’s looking like Chloe is a pretty strong candidate for that spot,” said Jeff Bierce, director of elite athletics for USA Cycling. “Her performance here today was certainly amazing, and she’s obviously on very good form.”
It seems like a good bet she will race the team pursuit on the track at worlds and the time trial on the road.
“I’m definitely using this race as a big training block, as part of my training for the world championships if I get selected,” Dygert said. “I’m just trying to make these races as hard as I possibly can.”
That’s making it hard, if not impossible, for anyone to beat her. Sunday’s stage is just under 53 miles on mostly flat terrain, and it’s hard to see anyone depriving her of the tour title. Through three days she has the jerseys emblematic of being the overall leader, the sprint leader, the queen of the mountain leader and the best young rider.
“We’re here to protect the jerseys,” Valente said, speaking for their Sho-Air team. “Chloe has had a couple monster rides the last two days, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”