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Kiel Reijnen is swapping his road slicks for gravel tires in 2022.
The 35-year-old Reijnen, who has been with WorldTour team Trek-Segafredo since 2016, will retire from WorldTour road racing at the end of the 2021 season in order to take on a new racing program in 2022. Like his former teammate Peter Stetina, Reijnen will launch a gravel racing campaign.
“Everyone’s trying to say, ‘Well, is gravel like road or like mountain biking, or is it like a race or is it like a grand fondo?’” Reijnen said. “Gravel racing is about making it yours. And so doing the LeadBoat Challenge can be as hard as you want to make it, or it can be easier. And that’s kind of the point of gravel. You choose your version.”
Reijnen is no stranger to gravel racing, and he competed in Unbound Gravel in both 2019 and 2021 — this year he had to abandon the race after crashing, damaging his shoe, and then walking in his socks for several miles. Reijnen also does much of his training in the Pacific Northwest on his gravel bike.
Reijnen said his goal for racing gravel is to act as an ambassador for cycling, and to help more people develop a love of bikes.
“I’m not here to change gravel or to put my stamp on it,” he said. “I just want to be enthusiastic about it and make other people enthusiastic about it. Getting more people on bikes, at the end of the day, is always a positive, and that’s why I’ve always been pro e-bikes and pro gravel bikes. I’m pro any version of bikes because the more people that get out and experience it, the better.”
He still has some road races left on his 2021 racing calendar. Reijen recently started the Vuelta a España for Trek-Segafredo, and he documented his time at the Vuelta in a video diary on VeloNews.com. He had to abandon the race in week three after injuries he suffered from a crash on stage 7 impacted his ability to help the squad.
Reijnen plans to race the Eurométropole Tour, and he’s on the long list to compete in Paris-Roubaix for Trek-Segafredo. His final two road races will be Binche-Chimay-Binche and Paris-Tours.
Throughout his pro career, Reijnen raced on United States-registered teams. He started with continental team Jelly Belly, then moved up to pro-continental with Team Type 1, followed by UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. Reijnen became a star of the U.S. domestic racing scene. A versatile rider who could climb and sprint, he won two stage of the Tour of Utah, two stages at the USA Pro Challenge, and two editions of the Philadelphia Cycling Classic.
Reijnen also won the GC at the Tour of Rwanda in 2011.
In 2016, Reijnen joined Trek-Segafredo where he rode as a domestique in the cobbled classics, grand tours, and one-week races.
“I am really glad my career took the trajectory that it did because it allowed me to have a host of different experiences instead of one role for my whole career,” Reijnen said. “And I did relish certain things about being in a leadership role. There’s a part of me that’s excited about gravel racing because I’ll get to push myself for results again because it’s been a while. And I think especially at my age it might be the kick in the butt you need to try and step up another level or train just a little bit harder, give a little bit more of yourself and make that extra sacrifice.