AVON — Having stolen the march on the field Thursday with a bold move on a climb in the hills outside Steamboat Springs, Chloe Dygert strengthened her hold on the yellow jersey in the Colorado Classic Friday by refusing to be intimidated on a brutal climb with inclines approaching 15 percent.
She’s not a climber, or at least that’s not considered her forte. Asked where the six-mile, 1,800-foot climb up Beaver Creek’s Village Road and Daybreak Ridge ranked on a 10-scale with climbs in other women’s races, the 22-year-old rising star of U.S. cycling from Indianapolis poked fun at her climbing prowess.
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“For me, anything that goes up is a 10,” said Dygert, a Sho-Air Twenty20 rider who won a silver medal on the track at the Rio Olympics in team pursuit.
Brodie Chapman, a strong climber from Australia for the TIBCO-SVB team who dueled Dygert up the climb in a two-rider break from the field, wasn’t buying that.
“Your legs say differently, apparently,” Chapman said.
On Thursday, Dygert took Stage 1 by surprising the peloton with an attack on the second of two climbs. She never looked back, taking a 48-second advantage into Friday’s stage at Avon. Many thought that meant she could be a major player for the overall title this weekend if she didn’t lose too much time to the climbers in Friday’s Queen stage. She finished Friday’s climb only inches behind Chapman as they sprinted wheel-to-wheel across the queen of the mountain marker.
“That’s the only time I think I’ll ever beat Chloe in a sprint,” Chapman said.
After topping out on the climb that rose to 9,400 feet, Dygert built a comfortable lead over Chapman on a steep, technical descent and cruised to the finish line. She won the stage by 28 seconds over Chapman, and with a tour lead of a minute and 22 seconds at the midway point, she is seemingly in position to strengthen her lead over the weekend. She figures to be hard to beat on the flatter courses coming Saturday in Golden and Sunday in Denver that suit her better than the first two stages.
“I guess the idea was to make it hard and selective,” Chapman said of their duel on Friday’s climb. “In hindsight I think I went a little bit too hard, too early, because 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. Super impressive.”
The climb was preceded by 35 miles of relatively flat circuit riding around Avon. That left 15 miles for the climb and the descent to the finish line.
“Definitely one of the hardest climbs,” Chapman said. “Obviously the altitude makes it that way, and it is consistently steep. It went for a lot longer than I thought. I was like, ‘Ah, I’m almost there,’ and I definitely wasn’t. A pure challenge. After going hard around these circuits, it adds to the element of making it hard.”
The question now is whether anyone can take the yellow jersey away from Dygert on courses more to her liking. Saturday’s stage will consist of seven 9.1-mile laps through downtown Golden and the valley between North Table Mountain and South Table Mountain. Sunday’s stage is 52.8 miles on the streets of downtown Denver, Capitol Hill and City Park.
“There’s still two hard days of racing left,” Dygert said. “It’s never set in stone. I have a good solid team, and we’re going to work really hard to keep this jersey and see what we can do.”