Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta: Reijnen puts in hard miles for Trek teammates

American Kiel Reijnen is racing the first grand tour of his career and said he's enjoying the experience in Spain.

OVIEDO, Spain (VN) — American Kiel Reijnen is putting in the hard miles at the Vuelta a España, his first grand tour, while working for his Trek – Segafredo teammates.

This grand tour will likely set up Reijnen for the coming year when the American WorldTour team takes on a new dimension when classics star John Degenkolb and multiple grand tour winner Alberto Contador join it for 2017.

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“The schedule I had this year had a lot of hard races, and that should pay off big time next year,” Reijnen said.

“I really like races like the Vuelta, some really hard courses. Any course where you have to stick your nose into the wind every day and take some risks. I enjoy those races. That happens in stage races and with some classics.”

The sun shined brightly at the start of stage 9 in northern Spain. Reijnen, who is from Washington, sat on his bike and looked ahead to the start line. Ahead, he and the peloton would face another one of the Vuelta’s many summit finishes this year.

“Of the three grand tours, I think this one has the most appeal for me,” he added. “I like the vibe here. I think I’ve done more racing in Spain than I’ve done anywhere else this year.”

The 30-year-old made a huge jump this year, after several years racing with U.S. Pro Continental teams like UnitedHealthcare and Team Type 1, he signed with Trek – Segafredo for 2016. The team, with guaranteed starts in all WorldTour races, fielded him in Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Ardennes classics, the Tour de Suisse — and now his first grand tour.

It came at the right time. This off-season, Contador will arrive with a handful of helpers and Degenkolb will fill the void left by Fabian Cancellara. Showing his sprinting/climbing legs in the Vuelta will come in handy for Reijnen to earn spots in the top 2017 races.

The team assigned him to help Niccolò Bonifazio, who already had to abandon, and Fabio Felline over the three weeks in Spain. He is doing so and gaining new levels of experience.

“The course this year is particularly hard. I think the profiles are deceptive. There’s been a lot of climbing. The media keeps saying that there’s not a lot of sprinters here, but the reason is because it’s a hard race to survive,” Reijnen said.

“I’m just going with the flow. I came here with decent things and I’m not too stressed. The team has ambitions, we want to win stages with Fabio and I was leading out for Niccolò Bonifazio. I’m happy to oblige. Fabio has great form and I think he can win a stage.”