Track Cycling

A 22-Year-Old Track Sensation Just Swept the Colorado Classic – Bicycling

  • Chloé Dygert Owen won the 2019 Colorado Classic on Sunday.
  • The former track world champion took all four stage wins as well as the climbing, sprinting, and Best Young Rider jerseys.
  • Dygert Owen has shown her dominance on a road bike after recovering from a 2018 crash at the Tour of California.

    There were four stages at the 2019 Colorado Classic, a women’s-only edition of the UCI 2.1 race that finished in Denver on Sunday. Chloé Dygert Owen won them all.

    The 22-year-old, who rides for Sho-Air Twenty 20, also secured the overall victory in an astoundingly dominant performance by one of the rising stars of American cycling. Dygert Owen is best known for her track racing, but recently she has proven ready to deliver big results on the road. But who, exactly, is she?

    The Indiana native’s talent was evident from a young age. In a rare double, she won both the road and time trial junior world titles at age 18. The following year, she helped propel the U.S. to a gold medal in the team pursuit at the World Championships, as well as a silver in the same event at the Rio Olympics. In fact, the U.S. won the Worlds team pursuit for three years straight between 2016 and 2018—with Dygert Owen on its squad each time.

    Chloé Dygert Owen at the 2019 Colorado Classic

    In March of last year, Dygert Owen secured her second world title in the individual pursuit. The event requires a meticulously paced 3K effort and a perfectly dialed aerodynamic position. The best pursuit riders have a laser focus and a rare ability to suffer, even among elite cyclists. Not only did Dygert Owen win the world title, but she also set a new world record of 3:20.060.

    Success followed success until May 2018 at the Tour of California. As the field approached the finish of the opening stage in Elk Grove, Dygert Owen suffered a heavy crash. For the remainder of the season, she struggled with symptoms from the ensuing head injury and had to stop racing. A subsequent knee injury complicated her return. She had planned to compete at the U.S. Road Nationals and at Road Worlds in Austria, but both were scrubbed from her schedule.

    Chloé Dygert Owen at the 2019 Colorado Classic

    Then, after a solid winter of training, Dygert Owen began to show her strength on the road this season. She won the overall at the Chico Stage Race, an early-season event in California, and at the Joe Martin Stage Race, a long-running competition in Arkansas. She also demonstrated that she could do more than ride hard in the flats and time trials. At the Tour of the Gila, famous for its challenging climbing stages, she finished second overall.

    Dygert Owen came to the Colorado Classic as a favorite for the race’s downtown circuits. But she had bigger ambitions. On the opening stage in Steamboat Springs, she attacked on the final climb and no one could follow her. “I looked back and saw that there was a little bit of a gap,” she said. “I knew that was my only chance.” Dygert Owen rode the final 15 miles alone at the front. At the finish, she held a 44-second advantage over second-placed Whitney Allison and pre-race favorite Brodie Chapman.

    Chloé Dygert Owen at the 2019 Colorado Classic

    The opening stage set a pattern for the remainder of the race. On paper, Stage 2 promised the climbers a chance to shine. Chapman rode hard from the start of the steep Daybreak Ridge, but Dygert Owen proved impossible to shake. The two riders crossed the summit together, and soon Dygert Owen set off alone. She crossed the line 28 seconds ahead of Chapman, extending her overall lead to 1:22 with the two downtown circuits yet to go.

    Dygert Owen did not set out to take Stage 3, later describing her winning move as an “on-the-fly decision.” The circuit around downtown Golden included a steep kicker climb and riders attacked the field repeatedly. Dygert Owen went just before the start of the final lap. She looked back, saw she had a gap, and beelined it for the finish, crossing a slim five seconds ahead of her teammate Jennifer Valente, also an accomplished track rider.

    “Nobody should give Chloé an inch, because she will keep going,” Valente said.

    The final stage in Denver showcased the sprinters, unfolding on a fast, flat circuit. Though the race saw nonstop attacks over eight laps, the field remained together. With one to go, Janelle Cole launched off the front in a bid for the stage win. Dygert Owen went with her.

    Chloé Dygert Owen at the 2019 Colorado Classic

    And then, with three miles to go, Dygert Owen went up the road alone. Another stage, another solo victory. Cole held on to finish second, while Emma White took third. Dygert Owen also won the General Classification and took home three additional jerseys: Queen of the Mountains, Sprint Leader, and Best Young Rider. Chapman finished second overall, while Omer Shapira placed third.

    “I was not expecting this,” Dygert Owen said. “I just wanted this race to be a really good block of training for the World Championships.”

    Road Worlds this year will take place in Yorkshire, U.K., at the end of September. USA Cycling has not yet named the women who will make up the U.S. team, but Dygert Owen hopes to compete in both the individual time trial and road race.

    “Hopefully this helps my case in being able to go,” she said.