Cycling Pair Redefine Roles in Society And Win

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Before Patrick Lemieux had even proposed, he shocked Gwen Jorgensen with an offer that was as unexpected as the proposal itself. Lemieux told Jorgensen that he would be willing to hang up his own bicycle and completely forsake his career in the pro cycling circuit to be her “house husband.”

To say that Jorgensen was shocked would be an understatement. But while she was surprised by the offers, she wholeheartedly said yes – to both of them!

Fans of the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics have taken their arguments to social media regarding what they are saying are “sexist portrayals” of some of the greatest athletes on the planet. Jorgensen, on the other hand, is adamant in giving praise for her husband’s vital role in allowing her to become the number one female triathlete in the world.

"Patrick is vital to my success," said Jorgensen, who is currently the defending International Triathlon Union two times over, as well as the Olympic favorite for the women’s triathlon.

Jorgensen would have never been able to train overseas for nine months while leaving her family in the Midwest if it hadn’t been for the dedication Lemieux showed, leaving his place after serving for two seasons on the Kenda 5-Hour Energy pro cycling team. Lemieux was her rock, taking care of all of Jorgensen’s meals, planning and transportation.

"He provides the mental support," she said. "He also does all the little things like the cooking and cleaning and he goes to the grocery store."

It was him taking care of the little things (which seem to add up quickly) that really made the biggest impact on Jorgensen’s ability to devote her physical, mental and emotional energy to being the best in the world.

"So," as Jorgensen put it, "I'm really fortunate."

In a society that constantly struggles with gender roles, Lemieux’s “stay at home husband” identification is making many people jealous.

"I don't have a 'job,' for some people, that's hard for them to grasp. But once you explain it they go, 'I get it. Like, wow! OK, cool,'" said Lemieux. He was interviewed during the women’s swim practice Wednesday at the Flamengo Club, which is just a stone’s throw from the triathlon course to be held on Copacabana Beach.

"Yeah, of course, it's a really easy punchline for a story like, 'Guy stays at home, works for his wife. But it's much more than that for us."

Lemieux and Jorgensen crossed paths for a reason. They met randomly in Milwaukee back in 2011. At the time, Jorgensen was an accountant working for the firm of Ernst & Young and had recruited only a year earlier as a triathlete. Lemieux happened to be in town that night and ended up meeting up with a cycling group after recognizing his buddy, Tom Schuler. Schuler asked Lemieux if he would be kind enough to offer up some tips to Jorgensen, since she was a relatively new rider.

Jorgensen had previously been an All-American track star and she swam competitively while a student at the University of Wisconsin, but she had only started cycling a year before. 

Lemieux was able to give her some helpful advice and at the end of their ride, he asked Jorgensen if she would like to join him for dinner at this great restaurant he knew. She said sure.

At that point, Lemieux showed off a little by letting go of his handlebars to put Jorgensen’s number into his cellphone.

Jorgensen said after the fact that she thought his moves were quite impressive. They started dating soon thereafter and by the next year, Lemieux was off to Madrid to visit Jorgensen while she trained. Lemieux was scheduled to return to the states for a race, but there in Madrid, he decided he was going to stay with her to help manage her operations and advance her athletic career.

Jorgensen: "He told me, 'I'm going to be quitting cycling to be with you the whole time.' I was like, 'Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! You need to think about this.' I was actually more hesitant than him. He had been thinking about it and this was just a shock to me and I said I don't want you to have any regrets or I want you to follow your passion, as well, and he said, 'No, I've made my decision and I'm going to be there with you.'"

Lemieux: "It was really clear to see. I was very pragmatic about my ability in the sport and it was clear to see that Gwen had already surpassed the highest level that I would reach. So, for me to quit that was more the emotions of leaving my friends pretty much. Cycling's pretty tough. It wasn't something that I was really prepared to keep investing in to get the returns on my performance that I wanted. So, that decision, people say, 'Oh, that's tough, giving up your career.' But I'm really at peace with it. I've never once turned back and said I wish I could go back. I miss riding my bike sometimes when the weather's nice for four, five, six hours. But the racing part of it, I don't miss it at all."

In falling for Jorgensen, Lemieux realized he really wasn’t all that fond of his career in cycling after all.

"Yeah, it's just a terrible sport, cycling," he said. "It's really dangerous. All of it, the high speed. When you think about it, Novak Djokovic, when he goes out to play, he's never going to lose his life. When the road cyclists go out, they might die and that's a really confronting thing in that sport. And it just wasn't fun for me anymore."

And so, Lemieux and Jorgensen officially became a team. At the end of 2013, the two quietly settled back into life in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soon after, the two decided to take another bike ride that would turn out to be life changing. They set out towards the Ford Parkway Bridge and as they got closer, Lemieux asked Jorgensen if she would like to stop so they could get a cute picture together. "I remember getting off my bike and thinking it really wasn't that pretty that day because it was actually the first snowfall and you really couldn't see a view of the river," Jorgensen said.

"You know, I'm always going to love you," he told her.

"You can't say these things unless you mean it," she interjected.

"OK, well, what if I do this," he replied, bending down on his knee.

At that moment, Jorgensen was completely swept off her feet. Literally.

"I was shocked and I took a step back and slipped and fell on the ice," Jorgensen said. "But, yeah, I was fine."

Because of Lemieux’s dedication to her training, Jorgensen has been able to women dozens of consecutive races beginning in May of 2014 and through April 2016. She even scored back to back ITU world championship titles before she decided to focus on her performance for the Olympics.

"I love having Patrick around," she said. "He's there every day. It's an advantage for me and Pat, he's the world's best caretaker. Because he comes from sport, he knows what I need, so I don't even ask for things. He just always knows."

Tag: This Championship Love Story Is Going to Turn Heads…..and Wheels! 

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Liz Harmon

Contributor

Liz is from right here in Colorado, so she is a designated tour guide whenever any of us need a fun weekend planned or place to eat. Growing up she always dreamed of climbing the peaks of the Rockies and still plans to accomplish it. She traveled the world, sharing her experiences with her followers on her blog. When she returned from her travels she decided to utilize her skill in writing and joined our writing team.