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From racing to having kids to racing again while raising kids

Conversation with Kiel Reijnen, Ian Boswell, and Pete Stetina ahead of the Cascade Gravel Grinder.

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This weekend, Kiel Reijnen, Ian Boswell, and Pete Stetina are all traveling to Bend, Oregon. They’ve rented a house together and are all riding the three-day Cascade Gravel Grinder stage race. By now, people know the story of the World Tour riders-turned some degree of gravel privateer, so there’s nothing surprising about this trip.

But this time, there is a bit of a twist: they’re all bringing their young families with them.

In the many ways that gravel is nothing like the WorldTour, being able to travel to a race in the US, with family in tow (and for Boswell, with family on the other end in Bend) is one of the many perks of this new phase in each rider’s life.

And so too is the ability to see how one another are doing it.

“Racing bikes was a big, important challenge in all of our lives, but raising kids is the most important job we have ever had,” Reijnen said. “ I’m curious to see how Alex and Pete and Ian’s personalities in the sport translate to the herculean task of raising kids.”

(ed. note: Alex Howes and his family were supposed to be a part of the weekend but had to cancel due to a death in the family)

Love and (racing and) marriage

As far as racing together — or against one another — even if the four didn’t directly overlap, as young Americans in Europe Boswell, Howes, Stetina, and Reijnen were always in each other’s orbit.

Boswell made Nice, France his European base, while Reijnen, Howes, and Stetina were all across the border in Girona, Spain.

Before joining the WorldTour, Howes and Stetina shared the deepest history together, riding together as juniors in Colorado and then on Jonathan Vaughter’s U23 Slipsteam squad. Stetina and Reijnen would then become teammates nearly a decade later on Trek-Segafredo.

Boswell, a bit younger and racing out west before joining Team Sky in 2013, had admired from afar.

“I knew of them as they were always up front at nationals and I probably wanted to be the next Pete when I was 16 and he was 18,” he said. “We first started to race together in 2013 at the Tour of California and Tour of Utah. Then in 2013 when I joined the WorldTour we raced together much more.”

Little Howes congratulates little Stetina on a junior national championship in 2005 (Photo: Courtesy Pete Stetina)

As the four riders built toward their WorldTour careers, they were also building relationships back home. Stetina met his wife Dyanna when he was 19, and she was a 17-year-old headed off to college. Reijnen and Jordan got together at 21, when he was in the throes of his U23 career.

For those who’ve wondered how pro riders manage to sustain relationships back home, for these three, the fact that the huge chunks of time apart were the norm was integral to success.

“Life is hard, but for most WorldTour relationships I feel like the situation develops around your career so you don’t really know anything else,” Boswell said.

Stetina: “ours was a long distance relationship from the beginning. It was a summer fling before I returned to Europe for the u23 Nation Cups and she went to college on the East Coast, but we just kept chatting. So from the beginning we had to deal with long distance.”

“My racing career really our racing career,” Reijnen said.

“She was there for my first contract and she was there for my first grand tour. She isn’t a cyclist but she didn’t need to be to understand what we were taking on. The choices we made along the way, we made together.”

Stetina, Reijnen and some bunnies at the TDU (Photo: Courtesy Pete Stetina)

Mutual understanding helped create the foundation of their relationships, but making time for their partners made it stronger.

After Boswell married his wife Gretchen and they bought a house in Vermont in 2019, the plan was to have her spend at least six weeks in Nice each year. During his stint in the WorldTour, Reijnen’s wife Jordan moved to Europe, and they had their first daughter there.

“Time apart can make the heart grow fonder, but too much time apart and the relationship can’t evolve,” Reijnen said. “I feel like Jordan and I were lucky and had a strong enough relationship that it was mostly easy going in this department, but there were certainly stressful moments. I think when you know you are stuck apart you can feel like your life is on hold a lot which is frustrating in your 20’s.”

“Racing at that level takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice not just for the athlete but from their family and friends,” Boswell said. “I guess I always understood that my World Tour career would end at some point so maybe that helped me get through those tough times.

“Given what I know now, I don’t know how we did that, though. I guess I was just so darn focused on my racing that I made it work.”

Gravel and (racing) and kids

Now that everyone is home, with at least one child and a wife working full time, what does life look like for these retired pros?

First, let’s define retired. For Boswell, it’s working full time as an athlete liaison at Wahoo, serving as a volunteer firefighter, and being a dad to Ingrid, 18 mos.

Reijnen still has a fairly full race calendar, some “15 events” this year (including the Life Time Grand Prix), is involved in the sailing scene on Bainbridge Island, and the primary caregiver for EmmyLou, 6, and Margot, 2, while Jordan works full time.

Howes and Stetina, pulling WT/Leadville double duty (Photo: Jared Gruber)

Stetina, “tends to say ‘yes’ to too many events,” and is also racing the Life Time Grand Prix. He’s a full time privateer, which means training and racing but also coordinating film projects and sponsor obligations. He’s the newest dad of the bunch, to Layla and Emery, twins born 10 months ago.

While all of them assumed their WorldTour days would be over around this point (except maybe Boswell: “By the standard of 12 years ago, I would still be in my Grand Tour prime”) and that they would be fathers, none could have predicted that they’d still be racing — and on gravel.

“I never thought gravel would grow as it has and never would have anticipated that I’d find myself here because frankly, when I was 20, I thought that you really had to be racing on the road or be one of the top MTB riders to make a career out of cycling,” Boswell said.

Yet the scene and schedule seems to suit them. Leaving home on a Thursday and coming home on Sunday is much more sustainable to the family than monthlong stints in Europe. However, Reijnen said, “it does feel like getting sucked back in.”

“Dyanna does feel like I’m gone more than I sold her on in ‘coming back to the US to race gravel,” Stetina (and Dyanna) added.

The shift is ongoing, with each couple navigating it uniquely.


For the Reijnen’s, it’s meant that Jordan works full time and Kiel is mostly home with the kids.

“I will say that this version feels way more sustainable, and equitable for me,” Jordan Reijnen said. “Do I miss living in Spain, and the amazing friends that are still there? Heck yes. But it’s also great to finally be able to put down some roots, and create community here on on the island.

“As far as frustrations go, I will say that now that I’m working full time, it is a little challenging to go from working all week to solo-parenting on the weekends that Kiel is away, but Kiel he tries to make sure I get some reset time when he gets home. This shift has been full of adjustments for both of us, but in general they have all been adjustments that Kiel and I both needed.”

Gretchen Boswell also sees the silver lining to having Ian home, despite the fact that he still travels frequently.

“Naturally, I love having Ian home, and also understand and deeply respect how hard he works to remain competitive despite the challenges of balancing family, home, work, and riding,” she said. “My love for Ian deepens whenever he returns from time away – like the old adage ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder.'”

Ian, Grandpa, and Ingrid. (Photo: Courtesy Ian Boswell)

There’s a lot to miss about the WorldTour, each rider said. The teamwork and team support, sense of camaraderie, the prestige — and all the free time.

But, gravel racing fills the cup in a different way, Reijnen said.

“I come home boosted instead of drained. Having this interstitial space is such a blessing. I am still connected to the community I have relied on since my late teenage years and I get to fall in love with riding my bike all over again.”

This weekend, at the Cascade Gravel Grinder in Bend, Reijnen, Stetina, and Boswell (as well as Jordan, Dyanna, Gretchen and the kids) will all get to spend time together in a way that is both familiar and new — around the cycling community at a bike race, but also with their families at a bike race.

“The bike race is simply the excuse to gather a group of people who share a deeper bond than just racing,” Stetina said. “This is a reunion.”

“I am most looking forward to watching how these people I have been friends with for so long are like as parents,” Reijnen said. “We have all gone through major shifts in our lives in the past couple years.”

And, let’s be honest, when the dads are out riding, nothing will have really changed.

“I’m most looking forward to spending time with all the families and seeing the evolution of change we have all gone through and share all the trials and tribulations of being a family unit,” Boswell said, “while having daddy try and still race his bike at a high level.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.