Cyclist Chloe Dygert is America’s greatest active rider, and the Indiana native was on her way to a second consecutive time trial world championship this morning in Imola, Italy, when disaster struck. As she was cornering a right-hand bend at high speed two-thirds of the way into the race, something happened to Dygert’s bike and she was sent into and over a guardrail just past the end of a line of protective barriers.
There are extremely graphic photos from the scene that show a deep gash in Dygert’s left leg where she slammed into the guardrail. According to people at the scene, Dygert was conscious and speaking shortly after the fall, though the extent of her injuries isn’t yet known. Dygert’s horrible crash is eerily reminiscent of fellow American time trial specialist Taylor Phinney’s leg-shattering crash in 2014 that cruelly derailed a career just getting started.
Dygert’s crash is comparable to Phinney’s on several levels, but one difference is that her early career has not been defined by promise so much as domination. The 23-year-old has seven world championship golds on the track and took last year’s time trial gold medal on the road with the largest winning margin in race history. Beating the best in the sport by 92 seconds over just 18 miles, at age 22, is the bike racing equivalent of Paraguay winning a World Cup final 8-0 over France.
Like any Hoosier, Dygert started out playing basketball, but an injury forced her onto the bike, and within two years, she took a road race and time trial double world junior championship. In every interview, Dygert shows a stunning level of competitiveness. VeloNews spoke to her last week and she admitted, “If I am being honest, I really don’t even like bikes. I do struggle most days even wanting to ride. But my competitiveness and desire to win outweighs my hatred for training.” After she became the youngest time trial world champion in history, she singled out a poor line she took one kilometer out from the finish as something too infuriating to even think about.
“Even when I win, I’m still not happy,” Dygert said. “It’s very hard, and I bet it is frustrating for those girls [other cyclists] to see that, especially when they bring it up to me. I do feel bad. That’s who I am. That’s not going to change. I want to be the best at anything and everything. I want to beat the boys. I don’t care.”NBC Sports
Dygert’s spot in the Tokyo Olympics is secure if she is healthy enough to race next summer, and knowing how competitive she is, I am sure she will do everything in her power to get there. If you want a silver lining, look no further than defending road race champion Annemiek van Vleuten. The Dutch rider flew facedown into a ditch at the Rio Olympics, also while taking a righthand corner. The two horror crashes are very different, but van Vleuten’s re-emergence is at the very least an encouraging sign.