US rider Dygert breaks world record at track cycling worlds

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              Chloe Dygert from the USA celebrates after winning the gold medal in the nne-player pursuit, women's final at the Cycling World Championship in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)
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BERLIN (AP) — Chloe Dygert shattered her individual pursuit world record in qualifying on Saturday.

Then she lowered it again.

Taking the track at the Berlin Velodrome a few hours later, the American endurance star stopped the clock in 3 minutes, 16.937 seconds to win gold at the world championships and stamp herself as the Olympic favorite in Tokyo. The time was nearly a second faster than her qualifying mark, which in turn was four seconds faster than her previous record.

“It was definitely the goal coming into this race. It’s super satisfying to be able to pay off,” said Dygert, part of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s team pursuit squad. “To come back after some injuries has been really satisfying.”

In other events on Day 4 at the Berlin Velodrome, Lea Sophie Friedrich gave the home crowd more reason to cheer when she won the 500 meters. Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters defended their Madison title for the Netherlands, and Benjamin Thomas of France dominated the four-event men’s omnium.

Dygert, the time trial world champion on the road, was already the big favorite in the individual pursuit. But when she posted a time of 3:17.283 in qualifying, the real race for her in the finals was against her own standard.

Wearing her colorful helmet of sponsor Red Bull, and with her pink socks and shoes churning in perfect rhythm, Dygert went out fast against Germany’s Lisa Brennauer. She led by more than a half-second at 500 meters, doubled the lead by 1,000, and eventually built such a lead that the two of them were on the same straightaway at the end.

Dygert was so spent after crossing the finish line that she could barely celebrate. She merely lifted her right hand in a tepid wave, grabbed a little flag from her coach for a victory lap, then winced while getting helped off her high-tech bike.

Brennauer finished in 3:23.229 to take silver while Franziska Brausse beat Lisa Klein in an all-German bronze-medal race.

“Yeah, it was not the time that I wanted, but still, it’s good to go faster,” Dygert said. “I wanted a 14, but yeah, you know, the conditions and everything else going into it. There’s no excuse. I just couldn’t do it today.”

In the 500 meters, the German women’s sprint squad continued its dominance with Friedrich stopping the clock in 33.121 seconds to edge Mexico’s Jessica Salazar, who was 0.033 seconds back in second. Miriam Vece of Italy took bronze.

It was the second gold medal for Friedrich after teaming with Pauline Grabosch, who was fourth in the 500, and sprint champion Emma Hinze to win gold for Germany in the women’s team sprint.

“It’s an amazing feeling here on the track. It was so close for me and I’m so happy,” the 20-year-old Friedrich said. “It was the ride of my life. I rode so fast. And it was so hard for me, but the riders are really, really strong here.”

The Madison will return to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and Wild and Pieters stamped themselves the heavy favorites after dominating the race Saturday. They finished with 36 points in the event, where riders take turns literally handing off the race to each other with a slingshot over the course of the endurance event.

“We’re super happy with this win. It’s really nice to win together,” said Wild, who atoned for her mistake Friday that caused her to be relegated in the scratch race and ultimately out of medal contention. “We trained really hard. It makes us really proud. We’re such a small endurance team. I’m glad we could win.”

The French team of Clara Copponi and Marie Le Net shot past the Italian team on the final lap to finish with 24 points and claim the silver medal. Letizia Paternoster and Elisa Balsamo finished with 20 points and bronze.

Thomas led the omnium from the start, winning the scratch race and finishing second in the tempo race. The French rider was third in the elimination race to give him a big lead heading into the points race, and Thomas capped his dominant day by finishing with 158 points — well ahead of silver medalist Jan Willem Van Schip of the Netherlands with 117.

Matthew Walls of Britain earned the bronze medal while reigning world champion Campbell Stewart finished fifth.

The track cycling world championships wrap up Sunday with four medals up for grabs.

Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland will try to give the Netherlands more gold after advancing to the semifinals of the men’s sprint Saturday along with Poland’s Mateusz Rudyk and Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia. Germany will try to continue its women’s sprint dominance in the keirin, and the men’s Madison and women’s points race are also up for grabs.