By Anna Cleaver
Gwen Jorgensen is returning to Auckland where less than 6 months ago she raced to an impressive 2nd place in the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final on this course. She knows the course, is in great shape after a summer spent training in Australia, and is likely to be excited about finishing her Australasian summer with a great race experience, before heading back home to the US.
Pro triathlete Anna Cleaver is the roving Trizone reporter in Auckland this weekend for the ITU World Triathlon Series and caught up with Gwen, amongst other athletes, to talk about this weekend’s race and to give us an insight in to what makes Gwen tick.
Anna: Gwen, welcome back to Auckland. You know this course and have had success on it, does that experience help with your planning for race day?
Gwen Jorgensen: Absolutely. Last year this was a race I targeted after the Olympics, and was able to adjustmy training to suit the demands of the course. The course starts with a two lap swim, followed by an eight lap bike course that has three hills per lap. For me, the key is to be well trained on the hills to make the run easier. The downtown venue makes for good spectating, which I always enjoy.
Anna: You are the only female representing the US at Auckland this weekend. Do the female athletes generally race as individuals or do you expect there to be some team tactics with the others in the field (NZ and Australia in particular)?
Gwen: You always have to expect a level of team tactics, but generally on a course like this, the course takes care of the tactics.
Anna: What should spectators expect from the female field? Is the course likely to break up the girls on the bike?
Gwen: The returning champ is back, and it’s no secret that Anne Haug is strong on the bike. Not to mention that rain could also play a role in the outcome. It’s the first race of the season, so I think there will be some surprise performances, along with some people still getting in shape.
Anna: Tell us about where you have based yourself over the past few months. Australia must be starting to feel like a second home to you (we will have to show you more of NZ next time!)?
Gwen: I flew to Australia at the start of the year to start training with Jamie Turner. It has been great. I really enjoy the training environment, the crew I train with, and the city we live in. The people in Wollongong really welcomed us, making it easy to get plugged in. This is my second time in New Zealand and I’m happy to be back. Last year I really enjoyed the people, and had a mini vacation after the race, exploring Auckland. It’s a place I’m happy to return to.
Anna: It is incredibly impressive that you qualified for the Olympics in your second year of racing triathlon. How do you stay focused on a goal that is 4 years away (the 2016 Olympics)?
Gwen: A four year goal may seem like a very long term goal, however, I think 2016 will be here very soon. I have changes to make, developments in my sport. My biggest focus is adapting to the changing demands of competition.
Anna: Your background is an interesting one. After University you worked for Ernst & Young as an Accountant before moving to triathlons full time. Does this corporate experience add to your performance as an athlete, including how you approach sponsor relationships, racing etc?
Gwen: The time I spent having a “real job” has given me a greater appreciation of being a full time athlete. To me there is no difference in a professional relationship at a job like Ernst & Young and in triathlon.
Anna: Any plans to race non drafting events in the coming year? Will we see you on the 70.3 circuit perhaps?
Gwen: Right now my focus is the 2016 Olympics. That means I will race the WTS series. However, I will likely do a few non draft events after the grand finale in London this year.
Anna: After speaking to you it is obvious that you are a very humble person, but incredibly driven to succeed in all areas of your life. How do you keep such a balanced approach to life given you are such a high performer?
Gwen: The sport of triathlon is humbling. Last year I had a few bad races. I had a poor performance in San Diego and the Olympics didn’t go the way I planned. The key for me is to have balance in my life. I like to surround myself with good people, who know triathlon isn’t the only thing in life. Having outside hobbies also helps. I love anything and everything to do with food, as most of my twitter followers already know. I also believe my relationship with Jesus keeps me grounded.
Anna: You have built up a great family of sponsors in your time in the sport. Tell us about some of your sponsor relationships that you value.
Gwen: I feel very fortunate to have the support I do not only from sponsors, but my family, friends, training partners, and fellow triathletes. Triathlon is my job. I no longer have any other sort of income, so having the support of sponsors, both through product and financially is huge. USAT is one of my largest supporters. They provide help with everything – anytime I have a question or a need triathlon related, they are always my first go-to and are eager to help. I can’t thank them enough.
Hincapie sports apparel is another major supporter. I love their clothing and am always comfortable training and racing because of Hincapie. This will be my second year riding Specialized and I couldn’t be happier. Not only do they provide me with a bike I know is superior on race day, they also provide awesome helmets, shoes, and saddles. I ride HED wheels. They provide a great wheel for any course condition. Having someone like Steve Hed provides great insight as to which wheel will suit each course the best.
David Hobbs Honda is a hometown sponsor. Like any athlete, I end up driving to practice and the grocery store often, so having David Hobbs Honda provide a Honda Civic makes getting around town much easier.
I race and train in the pool and ocean with Blueseventy products. I love the Helix wetsuit. I use it weekly in training. It provides great buoyancy and shoulder mobility.
Asics racing and training shoes keep my feet happy. I train in the Gel-DS Trainer. It is light, with great support. It is also colorful-I just absolutely love it!
Oakley is another loved sponsor. Before Oakley I hated sunglasses and never wore them. Now, I can’t do a ride, run, or even a walk to the shops without them! They are super comfortable and never fog up. They also magically never let sweat get in my eyes….and I sweat a lot.
The New York Athletic Club has been a great supporter of me and the sport of Triathlon. The NYAC in New York is an amazing facility, and I love training there.
Anna: So who would your money be on for the male podium on Saturday?
Gwen: I’m not a betting type, and when it comes to the first race of the year, you never know what can happen! Obviously Gomez will be a favorite as he is returning champ, but I know from some of the guys I train with that they are also fit and ready. I am a bit sad that the boys race before the women. I love racing and then being able to cheer them on. Whatever the outcome, I expect an exciting race to the finish on both the men’s and women’s side with a few surprises.
Anna: We can’t wait to watch you race on Saturday. You will have friends and supporters cheering for you NZ, Australia and of course the US.
Gwen: Thank you for your time.
Follow Gwen on twitter
Anna Cleaver is a former New Zealand champion swimmer and now professional triathlete who has just stepped up to Long Course.