By Martyn Herman
HARROGATE, England (Reuters) – American Chloe Dygert obliterated her rivals with a stunning demonstration of power to win the women’s time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in rainswept Yorkshire on Tuesday.
It takes something special to knock a Dutchwoman off the top of a world road podium but the 22-year-old Dygert produced it to leave favourites Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten scrapping to claim silver and bronze for the Netherlands.
Dygert, a five-time track world champion, was simply in a class of her own as she completed the undulating 30.3km route from Ripon to Harrogate in 42 minutes 11.57 seconds, averaging 43kph and maxing out at 80kph despite treacherous conditions.
Perched astride her TT bike, red wheel rims slicing through the gloom, Dygert started like a rocket and was relentless.
Olympic and world road race champion van der Breggen and defending world TT champion van Vleuten were already more than a minute down at the halfway split and ended up 1:32.35 and 1:52.66 seconds behind respectively.
The winning margin was the biggest since individual time trials were introduced to the worlds in 1994.
“I thought I did a good time trial,” Van der Breggen, who now has four world silver medals in the discipline, told reporters. “The only problem was Chloe out front.”
The race had been delayed for nearly an hour after torrential rain left huge puddles on the road, causing several crashes in the earlier men’s under-23 event.
But Dygert, who as a native of Washington state said she is used to riding in the wet, sliced through the puddles.
She caught 2014 champion Lisa Brennauer inside 12km despite starting a minute later and poured on the power, reeling in several more earlier starters before barrelling up the finishing straight and collapsing in an exhausted heap.
For a rider who does not even race on the European road circuit it was a phenomenal effort and proof she will be a threat on the road and the track at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Her performance was reminiscent of her coach Kristin Armstrong’s gold medal ride in the road time trial at the Rio Olympics, although this was far more emphatic.
“I was surprised by the margin,” Dygert, who married pro cyclist Logan Owen in 2016, told reporters.
The American said she had ridden without a power metre on her handlebars, opting instead to ride on pure instinct.
“Not having a power metre meant I didn’t look down at the numbers and think, ‘Hey back it off’. It was just full gas from the beginning and I managed to pull it off,” she said.
Dygert, who suffered a crash last year and sat out the track season, paid tribute to her coach Armstrong, who also won the world road title in 2006 and 2009.
“I went in today and had no idea what to expect. It has been two years since I raced against these girls. I had complete trust in Kristin and what she had to say. She is a time trial genius, so went in with what she had planned.”
Van der Breggen and van Vleuten will now aim to bounce back in Saturday’s road race.
“Time trial is mentally quite hard, but second and third is not bad. We have a strong team,” Van der Breggen said.
The men’s time trial is on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)