Who knew that a Midwest-based triathlete would not only have a ranking as the best in the world but also be tackling the ITU race when it comes through Chicago this weekend? Probably not Gwen Jorgensen, the USA Triathlon National Team member who’s ranked No. 1 in the world and calls the Midwest home (she graduated from the University of Wisconsin, she calls Milwaukee her hometown, and she currently resides in St. Paul, Minn.) She’s used to racing—and winning—in London, Yokohama, Stockholm and Auckland, places on the world circuit where some of us age groupers can only dream of competing.
Jorgensen will be about as close to home as she can get this weekend when she and 18 other Team USA triathletes compete in the ITU World Triathlon Chicago in Grant Park, June 28 and 29. The elite women will compete on Saturday, June 28, starting at 12:30 p.m., while the elite men are set to race on Sunday, June 29, at 4 p.m. Chicago is the only U.S. stop on the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, and the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run races will be broadcast live on Universal Sports Network.
Nine U.S. women are set to compete in Saturday’s triathlon. Kaitlin Donner (Satellite Beach, Fla.), Lindsey Jerdonek (Sagamore Hills, Ohio), Erin Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Chelsea Burns (Phoenix, Ariz.), Brianna Blanchard (Boston, Mass.), Erin Dolan (Bentonville, Ark.), Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Nicole Truxes (Tempe, Ariz.), in addition to Jorgensen, are expected to toe the line. Jorgensen and the rest of Team USA could face some tough competition from Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins and Australia’s Emma Moffatt. Jenkins, a 2012 Olympian and 2011 World Champion, spent most of 2013 sidelined with an injury. The Japanese women also are looking strong, three Japanese triathletes are ranked among the top 15 women on the start list.
For the men, 10 U.S. athletes will be racing Sunday, three of whom are making a homecoming of sorts. Ben Kanute (Tucson, Ariz.), who is originally from Geneva, Ill., Lukas Verzbicas (Orland Hills, Ill.), and Reeven Nathan (Highland Park, Ill.) are all set to compete at Sunday’s men’s race. All three athletes competed on the Multisport Madness Triathlon Team when they were junior triathletes. Nathan is making his ITU World Triathlon debut, and Verzbicas is making his second World Triathlon Series start since a July 2012 bike crash where he was severely injured. Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who’s a familiar competitor at August’s Chicago Triathlon and a four-time Olympian, will toe the line at his first ITU World Triathlon Series event since April 2013 in San Diego.
In addition to Kemper, Kanute, Verzbicas and Nathan, the men’s team includes: Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.), Jason Pedersen (Simi Valley, Calif.), Jarrod Shoemaker (Clermont, Fla.), Kaleb Van Ort (Mishawaka, Ind.), William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas) and Alex Libin (Colorado Springs, Colo.). They’ll have their work cut out for them as they try to grab a win on home turf as top-ranked Javier Gomez of Spain also will be racing. Gomez is seeking his fourth series win of the season after winning titles in Auckland, Cape Town and Yokohama.
The weekend of racing is about more than individual titles for these elite athletes. They’ll be vying for Olympic qualification points that will eventually determine the number of Olympic spots allotted to each country at the 2016 Olympic Games. And the U.S. athletes also are racing for the USA Triathlon Elite National titles.
So much happening this weekend in Chicago. For more details, or to follow all the race action, check out chicago.triathlon.org.