Waukesha native ready to continue triathlon success in Chicago race
UPDATE: Gwen Jorgensen won the ITU World Triathlon Chicago Saturday, giving her a record-breaking sixth ITU World Triathlon Series title.
Gwen Jorgensen's goal when she competes in triathlons has never changed, even as she has ascended from newbie to top of the podium to best in the world.
"I go into a race to race, and I really don't think, 'I'm ranked whatever number in the world,'" Jorgensen said. "I'm just going out to try to do my best. I'm really fortunate to be able to do something I love doing."
OK, so Jorgensen, 28, a Waukesha native and former Milwaukee resident, isn't preoccupied with rankings and such.
But just for the record, she is the top-ranked female triathlete in the world and has won a record-tying five ITU World Triathlon Series titles, including two in May, when she was named U.S. Olympic Committee athlete of the month.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jorgensen will lead a field of elite women in the ITU World Triathlon Chicago. A victory would make her the winningest female triathlete in the global series, which was launched in 2009.
The Chicago race is the only U.S. stop on the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series circuit. It just happens to be a two-hour drive from Jorgensen's hometown and close to her current residence of St. Paul, Minn.
"It will be fun having a bunch of familiar faces in the crowd, friends and family," she said. "But overall I don't train any differently because the race is in Chicago. Every race is the same. You come in there trying to do your best."
The 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run starts in Monroe Harbor and finishes at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.
"The course just came out online a few weeks ago," Jorgensen said. "There's a lot of U-turns (during the bike race), which is a little bit unique. So in training we've been trying to mimic a lot of U-turns on the bike. It's a lot of slowing down and speeding up, slowing down and speeding up."
Because of the colder-than-average spring, Jorgensen is prepared to wear a wetsuit during the swim in Lake Michigan. Triathletes are allowed to wear wetsuits if the water is colder than 20 degrees Celsius.
"We prepare for both wetsuit and non-wetsuit races, and I'm prepared to do either one," she said. "I'm excited and ready for whatever the call is. But I think we'll be wearing wetsuits."
Great Britain's Helen Jenkins, the 2011 world champion and currently ranked No. 4, also is on the women's start list after sitting out most of 2013 with an injury. Emma Moffatt of Australia, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, also will race.
"Everyone will come ready and excited," Jorgensen said. "I know there will be a lot of tough competition."
In the men's race Sunday, four-time Olympian Hunter Kemper of Colorado Springs, Colo., is set to race in his first WTS event in 14 months. Javier Gomez of Spain, ranked No. 1 in the world, will be trying to win his fourth title of the season.
Jorgensen recently returned home from a training session in the Basque region of Spain.
Late in 2012, she started working with coach Jamie Turner, whose team splits training time between Vitoria, Spain, and Wollongong, Australia.
Jorgensen also trains in St. Paul in the summer, but she has benefited from Turner's group environment, in which training partners push her daily. In Vitoria, she said, "the (bike) riding is the best riding I've done anywhere."
On May 17, she successfully defended her WTS title in Yokohama, Japan, connecting with the lead pack on the swim and bike before running the 10k in 33 minutes, 43 seconds to win by nearly 40 seconds.
Two weeks later, Jorgensen won again in London's Hyde Park, beating U.S. teammate Sarah Groff to the tape by 28 seconds.
For Jorgensen, it was vindication of sorts. During the 2012 Olympic Games, a flat tire in Hyde Park took her out of medal contention fairly early.
She's already looking forward to the 2016 Olympics.
"I'm really enjoying the sport and right now the next goal is Rio 2016," she said. "I haven't thought much past that."