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PARACOMBE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: Mads Pedersen...

Reijnen: ‘Having the rainbow jersey lifts the whole team’

Reijnen and Pedersen worked in support of race-winner Porte at Tour Down Under as Trek-Segafredo continue momentum gathered at the end of last season.

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Kiel Reijnen knows better than most how Mads Pedersen is handling the pressure that inevitably comes with the rainbow jersey.

The Trek-Segafredo teammates roomed together during the Santos Tour Down Under, and Reijnen watched the 24-year-old Dane suddenly dealing with being the center of attention.

“He’s the same as ever, which is a good thing,” Reijnen said. “A result like that can change your life, but it doesn’t have to change who you are as a person. He’s handling it well.”

The rainbow jersey is like a magnet for fans, media and rivals alike. Some riders don’t like the attention, while others, such as three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), thrive on it. So far, it appears the laid-back Dane is slowly getting used to his newfound fame.

Every day during his season debut, journalists and TV crews pressed in around Pedersen to get his take on the race. That’s a sudden change for the big Dane who, until he won the world title in Yorkshire, largely rode on the periphery of the media spotlight.

“The added attention is good for the team and good for his career, but he’s got his feet on the ground,” Reijnen said. “With Mads having the jersey, it’s special this year. I think it will give us an extra boost in the races.”

After a quiet start to his career, world champion Pedersen has been suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Reijnen, who re-upped with Trek-Segafredo for two more seasons, is riding into a sweet spot in his career. After working his way through the U.S. domestic scene to reach the WorldTour in 2016, he’s emerging as one of the most experienced riders on the team.

“I really like my job on this team,” he said. “And in the later years of my career, I’ve enjoyed taking on a captain role and helping some of the younger guys. I am super comfortable on the team, and I am motivated for the season.”

And it looks like 2020 is going to be a big year for the team. Trek-Segafredo suffered through a string of injuries, health issues and bad luck that hit its leaders early last season. Things started to click into gear in the middle of 2019.

Pedersen’s rainbow-jersey-winning ride was part of a season-ending high for Trek-Segafredo. After Pedersen struck gold in Yorkshire, Bauke Mollema won the Giro di Lombardia, and then the team secured Vincenzo Nibali going into 2020.

Trek-Segafredo is already off to a hot start of the 2020 season, with Richie Porte and Ruth Winder both walking away with stage wins and overall titles at Tour Down Under. Throughout the men’s race, Pedersen was lighting up the rainbow jersey, working for the team and challenging for mid-stage intermediate sprints and helping to tow Porte to the base of Willunga Hill.

Reijnen has easily slotted into the helper role at Trek-Segafredo. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Image

“We are here to help Richie,” Pedersen said. “I will have my chances to race for results later in the season.”

For Reijnen, he’s happy working in the trenches and doing the work to protect and set up his leaders for success. His first major goal will be the spring classics.

“I love the classics. It’s the heart of cycling and I enjoy being there with this team,” he said. “Mads and Jasper [Stuyven] will be our big leaders for the classics. My job is to put them in the best position possible to get results in those races. They are guys that we believe in on and off the bike, so it makes it easy.”

After that, Reijnen confirmed he’s not part of the squad being built around Nibali for the Giro d’Italia. There’s a chance he could earn his first ticket to the Tour de France, but said he will miss racing on home roads this year in the WorldTour. With the Amgen Tour of California suddenly off the calendar, Reijnen expects he will be at an altitude camp instead.

“I’ll miss that,” he said. “I’d be remiss to say it wouldn’t be a bummer. We’ll still have Utah for a home race. The sport is already Euro-centric, and any bit of home we can cling to is nice. California, for us, we got to play on our turf, and the WorldTour teams that came over, they were jet-lagged and out of their comfort zone for a change.”

Reijnen is set to stay in Australia for a few more races before heading back to Europe. Then he’ll work in a few days to get over his jetlag and ramp up for the classics.