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Back 2019-01-03

7x World Champ Chloé Dygert Owen Visits Zipp

Chloé Dygert Owen, who turned 22 on New Year’s Day, has seven world championships to her name. And an Olympic silver medal. The Indiana native comes from a family of cyclists (her uncle works for Zipp) but she was a latecomer to bicycle racing. She took up cycling after tearing her ACL pursuing her first sports passion, basketball. Chloé is blazing an uncommon path for pro cyclists by focusing on two disciplines, track (team pursuit) and road (emphasis on the time trial). Chloe, who has been with Sho-Air TWENTY20 for 6 years, lives in Washington State with husband Logan Owen, also a pro cyclist. We sat down with Chloé this fall during a trip home to Indy when she stopped by the Zipp office and factory. Below are edited excerpts:

What did you think of your tour of the Zipp factory?
I’ve come here with my brother doing the Zipp lunch rides and just looking around the offices, but to really understand and appreciate more about what I’m riding was great. To see all that goes into it and how much love and passion everyone has who builds those wheels to make it possible for us to ride them, it’s super awesome.

You have a new flashier website. Why did you decide to update that?
I made the old website myself. It was cool. It had my butterfly [logo], but I got a new agent and we hired someone to set up this new website. We wanted it to look really professional and sharp. They’ve done a great job, having my name and my butterfly. [you can visit the new website here: chloedygertowen.com]

Your nickname as listed on your website is “bug.” Where did that come from?
Growing up I think all my cousins had nicknames from my uncle Jake. My brother’s was “hound dog.” My cousins’ was “toad” and “gorilla.” Bug has really stuck with me. Everybody has just called me bug my whole life.

Why the butterfly image?
When I was a little girl I wanted to go out and catch these monarch butterflies…. I’ve always loved butterflies. I think they’re beautiful.

You’re a seven-time world champ. That’s a big number. What’s it like to get used to wearing those iconic world championship stripes at such a young age?
It’s such an honor to wear this kit and be a world champion. Being an American in cycling, it not being such a big huge sport here, the comments I’ve gotten, “oh, what’s your jersey mean? What’s it stand for?” It’s neat to explain to people what it means. I’ve been really fortunate…. My junior world titles, of course I had to work so hard to get there. But for me, I look at it as just another jersey. It’s just another jersey to go win. I can’t look at it any differently. Just like the Olympics. I don’t want to get in over my head!

This year did bring a lot of frustration, with a serious crash with a concussion at the Tour of California. You missed the World Championship as well. What do you take out of 2018, and how are you preparing for 2019?
For this year, I was going into it after my time trial performance at worlds in (2017). I had an injury last year, which caused me to miss the entire season. I thought I was fit for that race, but fourth was the best I could do on the day. That gave me so much motivation for the following year… I tried to make sure I stayed on top of everything to make sure that this season was my season.

That was really neat for me to get onto the road and work with those girls (on Sho-Air TWENTY20)…. My injuries were going away… to get to the Tour of California and have that crash, and it takes me out with that concussion, it was really hard. I struggled with that for quite some time.

I went home. I started on physical therapy because I was having some issues with my back after that crash. I worked with my dietician… My fitness was on point. I was ready to race. (Then) I hurt my knee. It was just a few weeks before they were going to announce the team for the world championships.

It is a bummer… But I would rather miss this year than miss next year, a year that actually matters for the Olympic Games. I don’t want to mess anything up for next year or the year after. I’m doing everything I can, still working on my diet, to make sure my body stays healthy.

How do you approach diet and nutrition to reach optimal racing weight in a healthy way? Some athletes get into unhealthy calorie cutting. How do you find that balance?
I struggle a lot with overeating. I like to go to Wendy’s and McDonalds! …. At this top, top level, if I want to win I have to make sure I’m doing everything 10 times better. I’m working with such a great dietician. I still probably eat more than I probably should with my restrictions… It is pretty tough. Luckily I’ve had such great support behind me, so it’s never been an issue where I need to lose weight. But it’s always been said, what if you were five pounds lighter?…. It’s never been pushed on me. It’s never been something I’ve been made to do. It’s always been on my own. I’ve worked hard on it. I’ve done it.

Kristin Armstrong is a U.S. cycling legend. You’ve been teammates with her and now she’s coaching you. How has that relationship evolved?
I remember my first race with her was the Cascade Classic. I’m like, Kristin Armstrong, yeah! She’s my teammate! Before the time trial everyone was like, ‘don’t talk to Kristin… Just don’t mess with her.’ Of course, I’m watching her, I’m not talking to her…. It’s really neat to see her that way and (then) become friends and teammates, and then have her be my coach. As similar as people may think we are, we are still very different in our thinking. For racing, she’s so ‘on’ and everything has to be perfect. For me, it’s, ‘Hi, mechanics!’ They know what they’re doing, and I’m good! When it’s race day, it’s race day, but when it’s not and it’s not. With her being my coach now, she kind of takes that stress off me because she is that way. When it’s race day for me, everything is where it needs to be.

Chloé visits Zipp after winning two junior world titles, road race and time trial, at the 2015 Road World Championships in Richmond, Va.

You grew up in Indiana playing basketball. Is there anything from your basketball days you found informative or useful for cycling? A team dynamic?
Being on the team pursuit on the tack, it’s really cool. You can definitely see the girls who have had experience with team events like soccer.

Speaking of basketball, you posted a photo on Instagram with WNBA star Breanna Stewart. How did that come about? What’s it like meeting a top athlete in another sport?
We’re both Red Bull athletes. Her game was in Seattle and we’re about an hour away. (My Red Bull manager) invited me and said, you want to go to this game? It was so great and so fun, what a great person she is and what a phenomenal player.

You live in Washington State and are married to pro cyclist Logan Owen. With two pro cyclist schedules that must be complicated.
It definitely is tough. When we’re gone, we have Facetime. But when we’re home, we’re home 24/7 because we don’t have jobs. We’re riding together, we’re eating together, just everything. So we both try to find our own things to do at home… I’m his motivation, he’s my motivation when it’s raining or something and he has a big ride to do, and I don’t feel like riding and he makes me go out and do it, or vice versa.

How important has Sho-Air TWENTY20 and its manager, Nicola Cranmer, been for your development as a cyclist?
Nicola has really made cycling a joy for me. She’s been there every step of the way. I can’t say there’s another team out there that would give me the support I need to be a dual athlete (track and road). She’s so supportive of Jen Valente and me. We both do track. She’s made everything so easy. She’s not just the manager on the team, she’s a great friend.

Visit chloedygertowen.com and follow @chloedygert on Instagram