'If the race was yesterday, I wouldn't have started' - Chloé Dygert battles illness to win World Championships time trial

American considered leaving cycling at the start of the year, but has come back to win her tenth senior world title

Chloé Dygert on podium in Team USA jersey
(Image credit: Getty)

Chloé Dygert was so ill when she won the World Championships individual time trial on Thursday that she almost didn’t start the race. 

The 26-year-old was the fastest on the 36.2km course in Stirling, clocking a time of 46-59.80 and beating Australia’s Grace Brown by fewer than six seconds. 

When she crossed the finish line, Dygert remained hunched over her handlebars, breathless in the humid air. Mouth agape, she hacked and coughed, trying to clear her throat, before shooting phlegm onto the pavement in front of Stirling castle. 

“The decision was always going to be made this morning of if I was going to start or not,” she said afterwards, her voice audibly more nasal. “If the race was yesterday, I don’t think I could have started. I just started being able to smell, I mean, not that I need to be able to smell the race, but that was a huge benefit for me this morning when I woke up. I was able to smell a bit. Then I got on the trainer and I rode for 30 minutes and my legs felt decent.”

Dygert’s illness, she suspected, came from the congested and stuffy Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, where she won her first world title of the Championships last week. The American’s victory in the individual pursuit was also her first since her horror crash at the 2020 World Championships in Imola, when she flipped over a metal barrier and lacerated her thigh. 

Today, Dygert’s left leg is still an inch smaller in circumference than her right one. 

“It’s definitely been a tough road,” the American said, highlighting also her recent heart problems and struggle with Epstein-Barr virus. “In November, I had my heart surgery. And then one month later, I got sick for like four weeks. Then I had a crash, on a team camp, and I tore a little bit of my muscle in my leg, in my bad leg, so I technically didn’t start training until March.

“At the beginning of the season, it was a question of if I was going to ride again. It’s [thanks to] a lot of support from everybody behind me, that’s why I’m sitting on the top step today.” 

As the day’s silver medallist, Brown, answered a question in the joint press conference, Dygert twisted her back to the room and coughed deeply into her arm. She then turned back to face the media, sniffling as discreetly as possible. 

“Today’s day five of the illness,” she said. “I’m so very, very, very grateful that the race was today.” 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.