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2014 ITU WTS Chicago – Age-Group Race

Amateurs competed in sprint- and Olympic-distance events on Sunday morning.

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Photos: Paul Phillips / Jonathan Phillips / Competitive Image

Age-group athletes traveled from 49 states and Washington, D.C., as well as 31 countries around the world, all to compete in the inaugural ITU World Triathlon Chicago in the heart of the city.

A record first-year field of 4,000 triathletes swam in Lake Michigan, took to the streets surrounding Grant Park on the bike and run and finished on the blue carpet at Buckingham Fountain.

“It was fantastic. It was really cool to have the closed roads and the laps. It was well supported,” said Kirsten Sass (W35-39, McKenzie, Tenn.).

Racing in the third-largest city in the United States with a population of nearly 3 million people was a unique opportunity for athletes.

“The support was great. I love downtown races,” said Linda Robb (W50-54, Juno Beach, Fla.). “To me it’s more of a thrill and the courses are fun because you can see all your friends and cheer everybody on.”

The race was the only U.S. stop on the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Series and a great opportunity for age-groupers to race at the same world-class venue as the elites.

“I have seen some professional races before, but never a WTS race. I like the atmosphere and watching the elites out there. I think it’s a cool experience,” said Stephan Verdeyen (M30-34, Columbus, Ohio).

One of the main reasons Robb decided to compete was the opportunity to watch the pros, too.

“When we watched the women’s pro race and knew we were going to race in the same area with the same finish — it’s really cool. That’s the reason we signed up to come out and do this race. You can’t beat these surroundings,” Robb said. “I’m excited to watch the men’s pro race.”

Many age-groupers are already looking forward to the opportunity of racing at the ITU World Triathlon Chicago World Championships in September 2015, which will be the first World Championships in the U.S. since Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2005.

“I was doing it for the experience because I am really hoping to race up here next year,” Sass said.

Athletes will need to qualify for a spot to race at the 2015 World Championships through their National Federation. In the U.S., your chance to qualify comes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 9-10 at USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. Olympic-Distance Nationals will be held on Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sprint Nationals will be on Sunday, Aug. 10, with the venue centered at the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World.