Chloe Dygert insisted in the week leading up to the cycling world championships that she wasn’t quite in form yet.
The American track star was still by far the best in the world Thursday.
The 26-year-old from Indiana, who has overcome a career-threatening crash and several other setbacks over the past three years, roared to victory in the individual pursuit for the first elite gold medal of worlds. In fact, Dygert was so far ahead of her opponent in the finals, defending champion Franziska Brausse, that she passed the German on the final lap.
Dygert stopped the clock in 3 minutes, 17.926 seconds, a time that was slowed by the pass and would otherwise have challenged for her own world record. Brausse finished more than eight seconds back for silver, and Bryony Botha of New Zealand rallied from nearly two seconds down to beat Britain’s Neah Evans for bronze.
In the women’s team sprint, the German trio of Lea Sophie Friedrich, Pauline Grabosch and Emma Hinze broke the world record in the finals with a time of 45.848 seconds. Britain took second in a potential preview of next year’s finals at the Paris Olympics, and defending Olympic champion China beat the Netherlands for bronze.
William Tidball of Britain won the men’s scratch race before a home crowd in Glasgow, Scotland, with his dramatic last-lap pass. Kazushige Kuboki of Japan took the silver medal and Tuur Dens of Belgium earned the bronze.
Dygert was widely considered the best in the world in endurance events heading into the 2020 time trial world championships in Italy. And she was well ahead of the winning pace that day before her bike wiggled on a right-hand turn on the roads near Imola, and Dygert crashed heavily over a guardrail and down a steep embankment.
She sustained serious injuries to her leg that required multiple operations, and while Dygert managed to come back to compete at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, she acknowledged later that she was nowhere near her best level.
That was still a ways off. Dygert also had to deal with the Epstein-Barr virus, a heart procedure to treat a condition she had dealt with for a decade, and then another crash during a training camp earlier this year that kept her off the bike until March.
Hard to imagine what Dygert’s best could be after her performance Thursday.
After setting the fastest qualifying time, Dygert roared from the standing start and opened up a half-second lead on Brausse by the end of the first lap. Perfectly still on her pink handlebars, and with Dygert’s trademark pink socks spinning in perfect rhythm, she stretched the lead to 1.2 seconds by the first kilometer and tripled that advantage by the end of the second.
At that point, U.S. coach Gary Sutton began yelling at Dygert to “catch her” — because Dygert suddenly found herself on the same straightaway with her competition. She moved around Brausse on the outside to claim the gold medal.
It was an emphatic start for Dygert to a busy world championships, which for the first time are bringing together nearly all of the cycling disciplines in one place and one time. Dygert will also compete in the team pursuit in the velodrome, then head outside for the road race and time trial, two events in which she recently won national titles.
Earlier in the day, defending men’s team pursuit champion Britain crashed out in qualifications when Charlie Tanfield fell alone on the final bend and was unable to cross the finish line. Tanfield was able to walk off the track on his own, but British Cycling said in a statement that he was taken to the hospital for “further treatment.”
The Danish team of Niklas Larsen, Carl-Frederik Brevort, Frederik Madsen and Lasse Leth was the fastest qualifier with a time of 3:46.816. That was more than 2 seconds ahead of New Zealand and another 3-plus seconds ahead of Italy.
In men’s team sprint qualifying, the heavily favored Dutch team of Jeffrey Hoogland, Harrie Lavreysen and Roy van den Berg had the fastest time of 42.046 seconds. Australia qualified second and Poland was third.
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