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Team USA

Chloé Dygert’s Comeback Journey

By: Jim Rutberg  November 30, 2022

After two years of injuries, illness, surgeries, rehabilitation, and setbacks, Chloé Dygert is healthy, pain-free, and back to training at full power.

Following her horrific crash during the 2020 World Championships time trial, Chloé Dygert knew she faced a long journey to return to the top of sport. It turned out, the laceration to her left quadricep was only one of the obstacles she’d need to overcome. Her recovery was further complicated in 2022 by struggles with the Epstein-Barr virus and increasingly frequent occurrences of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

The Crash and Aftermath

During the World Championships individual time trial on September 24, 2020, Dygert reached the first intermediate checkpoint more than 30 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor before crashing over a guardrail on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. The most serious of her injuries was a deep laceration to her left leg that cut through about 80% of her quadriceps muscle and part of her iliotibial band. Although the surgical repair was successful, the injury resulted in significant scar tissue within the muscle that left Dygert in constant pain.

Heading into 2021, Dygert signed a 4-year contract with Canyon-SRAM Racing and worked diligently to return to racing. She eventually raced again in early 2022 at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but that would end up being her only race day for the season.

The Crash


Shortly after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dygert was officially diagnosed with Epstein-Barr, the virus that causes mononucleosis, after dealing with fatigue for a few weeks. Because it was early in the year, the decision was made to rest and recover from mono and then return to racing in the summer. Unfortunately, that plan was derailed by a resurgence of mononucleosis. “I ended up relapsing in the summer from attempting to return too hard too fast. I am 100% or 0%, there is no in-between,” she explained.

In the end, the setback became an opportunity to schedule long-awaited surgery to repair her severely damaged quadricep.

Scar Revision Surgery

To regain the ability to live and train pain-free, Dygert traveled to Belgium for scar revision surgery by Dr. Toon Claes, the surgeon who similarly repaired a deep wound to Belgian Wout van Aert’s thigh following his crash during the 2019 Tour de France.

“Before the [scar revision] surgery, it was to the point that I just anticipated pain with everything I did: standing up from a chair, getting in and out of the car, pushing down on the pedals… everything I did just hurt,” she said of life before scar revision surgery in the summer of 2022.

According to Dygert, the surgeon expressed that the scar tissue was more extensive than anticipated, but that the surgery was a success. However, only time would tell whether she would be able to move – let alone pedal – pain free.

“The thing that always hurt me the most was straightening my leg from a bent position. If I was lying on my back with my legs bent, to straighten my leg I’d have to roll to my side and hold my leg in my hands to help straighten it because the pain would be so bad. And it was like this for the last two years, even after my second attempted surgery. It was only after the most recent surgery where I remember straightening my leg for the first time and not feeling any pain. Now, I don’t normally cry when I’m happy, but tears definitely came to my eyes. I honestly never thought I would be pain-free again.”

With mononucleosis and the pain in her thigh both behind her, there was just one more medical issue Chloé wanted to clear up before moving into 2023.

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

Starting in the summer of 2015, Chloé experienced infrequent bouts of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a type of heart arrythmia characterized by an irregularly rapid heart beat. Normally, heart rate is controlled by coordinated electrical impulses between the top and bottom chambers of the heart. Sometimes, as cardiologists discovered in Chloé’s case, people have an extra electrical connection between the atria (upper chambers) and ventricles (lower chambers). During an episode of SVT, this extra connection disrupts the heart’s normal electrical impulses, leading to an abnormally rapid heart rate that can be accompanied by feelings of dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Although she never experienced it during competition, Chloé said she had episodes of SVT about once or twice a year from 2015 through 2021. Over the past year, the frequency increased. “I have had about 5 episodes in the past seven years that happened while on my bike and the rest were either in the gym or bending over to pick something up. The most recent episode happened while I was out on an easy endurance ride. My heart rate peaked at 219 beats per minute, then sat at 205 for five minutes and 195 for another ten minutes. I was with a friend, and we stopped and sat on the side of the road to wait for my heart rate to slow back down,” she said. “But I told myself, ‘Knowing me, if this were to happen in a race, I would not stop.’ So, the smartest decision was to go get it fixed.”

On November 17, 2022, Dygert underwent a catheter ablation procedure in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Doctors inserted a catheter into a vein and fed it into her heart. They induced a bout of SVT to locate the extra electrical connection, then burned it to prevent future episodes.

According to Dygert, there was no indication that years of training and racing caused the development of SVT, and her doctors don’t expect the procedure to limit her capacity as an athlete. "At the end of the day, my SVT was annoying but not life-threatening as long as I stopped pushing myself during episodes. I could have probably lived with it and not had the ablation. But, because it would probably force me to stop during a race at some point, I didn’t want to have to worry about it. So, I just went in, got it fixed, got it done.”

Grateful To Be Looking Forward

With a clean bill of health and her characteristic zeal for hard work, Chloé Dygert is eager to move forward and make up for lost time. “I’ve literally missed the last two years. I can’t imagine how frustrating it’s been for my sponsors and teammates. At times I felt like ‘the boy who cried wolf’, except there’s been an actual wolf every time. All I can say is that I’m grateful to my team, Canyon-SRAM, to USA Cycling, and to everyone for staying by my side.”

Dygert intends to race a mixed program of road and track competitions in 2023, with goals centered on winning at World Championships and qualifying for 2024 US Olympic Team.