About the only relief a cyclist can find from the gray, wet days that seem to last forever during this time of the year is to head south.

Way, way south.

Bainbridge’s Kiel Reijnen will have plenty of sunshine to ride in as part of the Trek-Segrafado team that is taking part in the 2019 Tour Down Under, beginning Sunday with the criterium in Adelaide, Australia. The 21st edition of the week-long World Tour race includes six stages and concludes on January 20th with the 151.5km stage from McLaren Vale to Wilunga Hill.

Reijnen’s Trek-Segrafado team includes Australian Richie Porte and William Clarke, Netherlands’ Koen de Kort, Ireland’s Ryan Mullen, Columbia’s Jarlinson Pantano and fellow American Peter Stetina.

Reijnen, a 2005 Bainbridge High graduate, has high hopes for his 2019 campaign. 

Kiel Reijnen of Bainbridge Island is one of two World Tour riders from Kitsap. (Photo Courtesy Kiel Reijnen)

Reijnen has had success since turning pro in 2008. He has donned the winners’ yellow jersey twice and earned 16 wins including eight stage wins. 

It was during the 2015 season that Reijnen won the first stage at the Tour of Utah. He captured the red jersey for the Mountains classification of the Tour de Langkawi and was third in the National Road Championships.  

“I would like to represent the U.S. again at the World Championships again in 2019,” he said. “Still on my bucket list is to win a national championship. I have been on the podium five times, but never on the top step.”

Reijnen considers his first win at the Pro Challenge in Colorado his best accomplishment in his career. 

“I took the leaders’ yellow jersey and won the stage after attacking in the final with my friend and constant competitor Alex Howe,” Reijnen said. “It was my first big win against some of the best riders in the world and it gave me a lot of confidence moving into the second half of my career.”

It’s also a career that Reijnen didn’t plan on, having crewed in high school. 

“But I was small for the sport and when it became clear I wasn’t going to grow more I knew I wouldn’t be able to participate at the level I wanted to,” Reijnen said. “I wanted to make it to the world stage. After trying my hand at the Seward Park practice race in Seattle, I thought cycling might be the sport I could make that happen with.

“I wasn’t a super-talented youngster. It took a lot of discipline and time to get to the level I’m at now.”

Reijnen considers his biggest influencers Paul Johnson, owner of Classic Cycle on Bainbridge Island as well as Ben Day and Brad Huff. It didn’t take long for Reijnen to decide that cycling full-time was what he wanted to pursue.

“I don’t like to do anything part way,” he said. “As soon as I tried my hand at a couple races I set my sights on becoming a top-level pro.”

Reijnen said he poured over photos from European races and magazines. Convinced he could ride in a grand tour one day and race over the cobble stones of Belgium, Reijnen knew it would take hours of time and thousands of miles in the saddle.

“Like I mentioned I wasn’t an uber-talented young rider, so it wasn’t an obvious fit,” Reijnen said. “I just fell in love with it.”

While cycling might appear as a one-person sport, cyclists know they wouldn’t be anywhere without their team. Reijnen has been with Trek-Segrafado, one of the biggest world tour teams, since 2016.

Competing at this level can be stressful and there are expectations that don’t exist when a cyclist is a young up-and-comer, he said. 

“Having the support of a big budget team does make it much easier to focus on your job,” he said. “On the road we often have more staff than riders. They take care of everything from our food to maintaining our bikes. Without them we wouldn’t be able to perform at this level.”

Picking races and riders comes down to coaches, directors and managers with input from riders.

Reijnen said riders are generally selected for races and courses that suit their style. If a rider performs better on mountains than he’ll be added. Same for flatter courses where speed is essential. “… Every rider selected for a race is there for a specific job within that race to set up the team for the best result possible,” Reijnen said. “The schedule is constantly influx as riders get injured and sick. Often for the biggest races of the year selection isn’t made until just before the event ensuring that the team brings the most “in-form” riders. This often makes planning travel and family time difficult.”

Because he’s traveling six months out of the year, it makes spending time with family and friends that much more important. Reijnen, his wife and two-year-old daughter cherish their time at home in Kitsap, he said. 

“I am lucky to have a significant amount of extended family in the area and my parents living next door,” he said. “This community helped support me and made me the athlete I am today. To be home and surrounded by that atmosphere is a special feeling that I don’t take for granted.”

Reijnen has seemingly paved the way for Kitsap riders.

Joining Reijnen this week in Australia for the women’s Tour Down Under is fellow Bainbridge Islander Heidi Franz, who races for Rally Cycling. Bremerton’s Logan Owen (EF Education First Pro Cycling Team) and his wife Chloe Dygert Owen (Sho-Air TWENTY20) all call Kitsap home.

“Logan and myself aren’t just the only World Tour riders in Washington, we are the only ones including Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho … the entire Northwest,” Reijnen said. “And we both grew up in Kitsap! What are the chances? 

“It’s been really fun to be able to get together for rides with the whole group. I think it helps knowing we are all out there suffering in the rain, even on the days we aren’t training together.”

Whether people believe it or not, being a professional athlete often feels like a normal job — just exaggerated, Reijnen said. 

“The highs are higher and the lows, lower,” he said. “On the days when everything goes right this is the best job in the world and I feel like I am living my dream.”

In this article

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.