PEZ Talk: Kiel Reijnen
Rider Interview: Monday was the first rest day of this years Vuelta a España, so for a change of air Ed Hood got hold of Kiel Reijnen – en route to the Tour of Alberta – to have a word about his Stage One and Overall Points win in the USA Pro Challenge and his season to date.
UnitedHealthcare rider Kiel Reijnen has had a very strong early season with his stage 1 win in the USA Pro Challenge – Tour of Colorado and the overall points jersey at the end of the race. Along with his three bronze medals in the US National road championships, he has a big list of top wins in his palmarés. Ed Hood managed to catch-up with Kiel during his busy schedule earlier this week.
PEZ: Stage One in Colorado, a great result, Kiel – what does it mean to you and the team?
I think for me it’s confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction. The win wasn’t a surprise but it’s still nice to have the confirmation. Doing it my back yard certainly made it extra special. For the team, it’s not only important for our sponsors but also for the continued development of the program. Every year the team has become bigger, better and more consistent – our sponsors have seen our continued success and helped push us up a level every year.
PEZ: And you were close on Stage Seven…
That was a really though one. It was a fair battle to the line, I got a bit held up, but so did Alex (Garmin’s Alex Howes, who won the stage, ed.) You can’t change what has already happened. That being said I really wanted the win for all my teammates. They worked so hard all day for me, especially Ben Day who had great legs and threw out any chance he had to sacrifice for me on his last day as a bike racer. To pay him back with a win would have been so special but a podium was pretty cool too. I got the better of Alex day one and he the better of me day seven, I suppose there’s something pretty poetic about that.
PEZ: With the Points Classement as a bonus.
The Points Jersey was the team’s goal from day one. We put our cards on the table right from the start and it paid off. I was second for the points jersey at the Tour of Utah and we didn’t want to miss that again by a handful of points.
PEZ: And Utah went well.
I trained hard leading up to Utah; I had a mid season break in late June and spent all of July preparing. I didn’t want to use Utah to prepare for USAPC (Colorado) I wanted to be competitive right away. I was really close on three stages but wasn’t able to pull out a win. I knew the legs were there and it gave me confidence going into Colorado.
PEZ: You cope better than most with the altitude.
I live in Boulder, but really that’s only about half as high as most these stages are so I don’t know how much it really helps. These days everyone comes up to altitude to train as well. Racing in your backyard, however, is certainly an advantage and I feel very comfortable racing so close to home. It’s awesome having friends and family out cheering for you.
PEZ: And you won Philly again, this year – you must have been a marked man?
Yes, very marked and with the pressure on it’s always tougher to win. But my team was phenomenal they put me in the perfect position to win and at Philly that’s all you can ask for. After that you either have the legs or you don’t, you can’t fake it on a 20% grade climb. I’ve heard that a three-peat is even harder, we’ll see.
Another great win from Kiel Reijnen in the Clarendon Cup
PEZ: You won the Clarendon Cup – usually one for the criterium specialists?
I asked management if they would put me on one of the crits this year; just for fun I thought I could be of good help in the lead-out train and have a fun weekend racing since crits are about all I did when I first started racing a decade ago. I didn’t go into the race with ambitions but the first day was hard and aggressive the break didn’t go until we were 50km. We ended up lapping the field and after that the boys lead me out so fast I could barely come around for the finish line. I figured I wouldn’t be so lucky the next day but it worked out and we lapped the field again. After the weekend I was so sore everywhere, my neck, legs, feet, back – it’s such a different effort than what I am used to.
PEZ: The Road Nationals; usually a race you excel in – but not this year?
The National is a unique one. I really wanted to win there this year and I felt like I had the legs, but it is such a crapshoot. Tactically it is such a mess; there are strong teams with lots of guys but no leader and teams with only one guy and no support. It makes for confusing negative racing and this year the early break went all the way to the line, the chase just never got organized. I was really frustrated but sometimes that’s bike racing.
PEZ: 2014 is perhaps your best year to date – why do you think that is?
I feel like I have made slow steady progress each year during my career (minus being sick all of 2011 – that was a big set back). I wasn’t a stand out U23 and I was pretty terrible the one year I did in the junior ranks. I like making progress every year, the year I feel like I’ve stopped making progress is probably the year I’ll retire.
PEZ: You started the year in the Qatari desert – what was that like?
Fun, other than crashing hard. I’ve had some residual issues from that, but I really enjoyed racing in the warm that time of year and I will never look at crosswinds the same again.
PEZ: Your Euro season started in the Classic Sud Ardeche – that’s a tough race.
Yes it is. I was still trying to recover from crashing hard in Qatar and I suffered from the lack of training I was able to do as a result of that but you have to start somewhere.
PEZ: You were top 20 in the Ronde van Drenthe – a good result.
Honestly I really messed up that finish. I attacked after a section of pave 100km in and there were some cross winds, the group was 15 or 16 guys, we raced together all the way till 10km to go and then the attacks started. I just read all the moves wrong and ended up finishing last in the group. I was happy with how I felt, but I didn’t race very smart and that was frustrating.
PEZ: And you rode the Primavera, again – how was it, this year?
Compared to the last time I did it…hell. The weather was just relentless all day. I saw grown men cry. I was only 60th or something but I am really proud of just having finished that day.
PEZ: You finished Brabantse Pijl – another tough one.
I went in the early break not really sure what to expect in the final but once the field got close I still had a lot left so I went on my own for a while. Once I was caught I fought to stay in the move that came across. I guess in the end I didn’t have much to show for all my efforts but it felt good to take some risks and really race all day long.
PEZ: Did the early Euro start set you up nicely for the US season?
The hard racing and demanding conditions give us a huge advantage for the second half of the season. You just can’t simulate racing like that.
PEZ: Is riding a full European season with a Euro team something you’ve ever considered?
Of course, but no one has given me the opportunity yet. I’m very happy with the program we have here and every year we keep growing. I’m proud of what we have accomplished this year and the team is continuing to grow so that is very exciting.
PEZ: What’s the team’s expectation for Alberta?
I will be stage hunting again. On paper it looks like there are a couple stages that suit me so those are my targets. I would like to walk away with another stage win here.
PEZ: And what’s still ‘to do’ in 2014?
Make the US Worlds team.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.