Chloe Dygert celebrates after winning women's individual pursuit final in the 2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships on April 15, 2017 in Hong Kong.
For Chloe Dygert-Owen, even a world record isn’t good enough.
Even after setting the world record for the women’s individual pursuit twice. On the same day. At sea level.
During the UCI Track Cycling World Championships earlier this month in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Dygert-Owen indeed rewrote the world record twice.
The 21-year-old, who entered the event as the defending world champion, finished the 3,000-meter race in 3 minutes, 20.072 seconds during the qualifying round. That broke the world record of 3:22.269 set in 2010 by her mentor, four-time Olympic silver medalist champion Sarah Hammer.
Then she lowered the record to 3:20.060 in the final.
Neither time came close to her goal.
“The first ride, in qualifying, I was expecting to get a 3:18, and I was really upset,” said Dygert-Owen, a native of Brownsburg, Indiana, now living in Washington state.
Hammer set her world record in Aguascalientes, Mexico, one of the highest velodromes in the world, where the thin air at altitude offers less resistance and more records.
But Dygert-Owen set her records at sea level, where times are typically slower.
In the head-to-head finals victory over Annemiek van Vleuten of the host nation, the only race drama came when the clock didn’t stop after Dygert-Owen easily finished first for her fifth overall rainbow jersey.
“I was upset about that,” Dygert-Owen said of the time continuing to run. “And then when we got the time, everyone was making such a big deal that I broke the world record again. I had to fake a little excitement. I was expecting a better time, and I only went .012 faster.”
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In 2016, Dygert-Owen won an Olympic silver medal in team pursuit, becoming the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic cycling medal as a teenager. She has also helped Team USA win three straight world championships in the event, and has won the last two individual pursuits.
Now not only is she a five-time world champion, but she also became the first American to win multiple track cycling world titles in the same world championships twice.
Previously, only two Americans had won two track cycling world titles in the same year: Marty Nothstein (spring, keirin in 1994) and Hammer (omnium, individual pursuit 2013).
Dygert-Owen, who is married to fellow pro cyclist Logan Owen, likes to say she started meddling (make that pedaling) in cycling around 2013 after shoulder surgery.
“My dad got me on the bike to keep me from gaining weight,” she joked.
The next year, she tore an ACL, basically ending her basketball career and cementing her commitment to the world of cycling.
She swept the individual gold medals at the junior road world championships in 2015, claiming both the road race and time trial jerseys, the first American to do so.
She also became fast friends with fast people like Hammer and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, her current coach.
“I really have been blessed,” she said. “My entrance into this sport, when I joined with Kristin Armstrong being on her last Olympic team and taking me under her wing, starting my career at the end of hers.
“And Sarah was there for my very first day on the track. It’s been so great and humbling to be so supported and welcomed by two of the best female cyclists in America. To have them both in my life, I can’t begin to express my appreciation.
“To compare it to another sport,” she continued, “it’s like me going into the NBA and being best friends with LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.”
Dygert-Owen was fourth in the time trial at the last road world championship and is looking for better results this season before turning back to the track.
“I like to set my standards really high,” she said. “Anything that I do, winning, getting the world record, I just expect that of myself. I don’t every tell myself, ‘Good job.’ There’s always room to improve. For my world record, my line could have been better … I still go back to my junior worlds, I won by over a minute and there were things I was kicking myself for after the race.
“Even in Apeldoorn. Yes I won. Yes we won. But there’s always something to do better.”
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.