On a rainy Tuesday, Chloé Dygert Owen showed no mercy, racing to her first world title in the time trial and earning a berth at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a dominating performance at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, England.
Heavy rain and flooding caused a 40-minute delay for the elite women’s race, while start times were also reduced to 60 seconds instead of 90.
The changes hardly slowed Dygert Owen, who started 34th of 53 riders. She crossed the 14.2-kilometer checkpoint in first place at 18:57.88, just over 90 seconds ahead of the next best rider at the time and finished the 30.3K race in 42:11.57, crumbling to the road in exhaustion upon crossing the finish line.
Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and three time world silver medalist in the time trial, finished second, 1:32.35 back. Fellow Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten, the two-time defending world champion, was third, finishing 1:52.66 behind Dygert Owen.
Dygert Owen’s margin of victory was the greatest in the history of the event at the world championships by 21 seconds. She became the fifth American to win the time trial world title.
One of those former world champions, Amber Neben just missed out on the podium this year, finishing fourth at 2:38.41 back. The 44-year-old from Irvine, California, is a two-time world champion in the time trial and a 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympian.
Leah Thomas, the third American in the race, was seventh, 3:12.66 behind Dygert Owen.
“I live in Washington state right now and that's kind of the weather all the time, so I'm kind of used to riding in the rain,” Dygert Owen said, “I knew everybody else wouldn’t be scared, so I just tried to make the best of it.”
The world title is the first for Dygert Owen, 22, as a road cyclist, but her sixth overall.
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Already an Olympic silver medalist in team pursuit at the Rio Games, Dygert Owen is aiming to win Olympic medals in both road and track cycling in Tokyo, a feat that only Rebecca Twigg has accomplished among American women. Twigg won a silver medal in the road race at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984 and a bronze in the individual pursuit at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
“There are going to be sacrifices,” Dygert Owen told TeamUSA.org last week. “But for the most part, I’ve had these goals, and everybody knew what was going to come of these goals.”
Dygert Owen, who is aiming to also qualify for Tokyo in the team pursuit and road race, has shown she can be competitive with the best in the world.
The Brownsburg, Indiana, native has had a rapid rise through the sport. Shortly after graduating from high school in 2015, she won the junior road race and time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. That marked the first time an American won both events at the same world championships.
That led to an invitation to train with the U.S. team pursuit track cycling team, and, in 2016, she joined Kelly Catlin, Sarah Hammer and Jennifer Valente to win the team pursuit world title, the first for a U.S. team. Later that year the same four won the Olympic silver medal in Rio.
Since the Rio Games, Dygert Owen – who married fellow pro cyclist Logan Owen in November 2016 – turned her attention back to the road, while also not giving up the track.
She added two more team pursuit titles again in 2017 and 2018, in addition to wins both years in the individual pursuit, which is no longer an Olympic event.
All the while, she competed injured at the 2017 road world championships, finishing fourth in the time trial. After an injury-plagued 2018 road season, she came back in 2019 to help the U.S. win a team pursuit gold medal while claiming the road time trial gold medal at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Now she’s thinking bigger.
“I never put a cap on what I can do because I want to do it all, it’s just a matter of what my body will allow me to do,” Dygert Owen said.
Dygert-Owen will also compete in the road race on Saturday.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.