Jen Luebke grew up in Missoula, MT and got her start as a swimmer and volleyball player in high school. During her senior year, she experienced her first taste of multi-sport competition in the hometown Grizzly Triathlon. When Jen graduated and went on to the University of Montana she joined the school’s triathlon club where she claims she started out as “the worst person on the team.” However, Jen leverages her naturally competitive nature, stuck it out, and earned her professional triathlon license during her senior year.
Triathlon continued to be Jen’s focus in the years immediately following college, first racing the Olympic distance, then half Ironmans, and then finally making the transition to the Ironman. Eventually, injuries ensued. A nagging issue with her hamstring and SI joint followed her from season to season and caused a great deal of frustration. What she did next Jen describes as one of the most impulsive decisions she’s ever made. She joined a cycling group and didn’t look back. She didn’t miss those early mornings and the multiple workouts a day that come with competing professionally across three disciplines.
In 2012, Jen met a Bend-based triathlete named Matt Lieto at a competition in Idaho. The two hit it off and ended up dating long distance for just over a year before Jen made the move to join Matt in Central Oregon. Here she has found a supportive community of athletes and ample opportunities for both training and coaching.
When Jen decided to make the switch from triathlon to cycling in 2015, she chose to compete with the Portland Bicycle Studio team because it was the only team in Oregon that crossed state lines for competition. She began as a cat-3 with the goal of being a cat-2 in time for the Cascade Cycling Classic (CCC), which takes place in Bend in late July. Jen reached this goal, raced well at the CCC, and decided out-of-state stage races were the next step in her progression.
During the 2016 season, Jen was inspired as she guest rode alongside Amber Neben at the Redlands Cycling Classic with the Dare To Be Project. She also competed with the Happy Tooth team at the Tour of the Gila before returning to the CCC with the Portland Bicycle Studio and posting a top-ten finish in the GC and two 10th place stage finishes. This result attracted the attention of the Visit Dallas DNA team, which offered her a contract for 2017 and the life-changing opportunity to ride with them at the 2016 Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche in France. It was this race that she credits with instilling in her the power of acting as a team and the importance of each individual role.
2018 has brought Jen to a new team environment with the Hagens Berman Supermint squad. “I have been super happy with the team chemistry and the director,” she explained before going on to add, “we have been viewed as an underdog team and it has been fun to surprise people this season.” This past weekend the Minties, as they have coined themselves, competed in the USA Cycling Professional Championship in Knoxville, Tennessee. Jen led her team with three impressive days that included a sixth-place finish in the time-trial on Thursday, a third-place finish in the crit Friday night, and fourteenth place in the road race on Sunday. “I definitely had better results in all three events than I could have imagined” she reflected. Perhaps it is time for Jen to dream bigger.