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Kiel Reijnen ends road career, will focus on gravel in 2022

Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo)
Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Trek-Segafredo announced on Wednesday that American Kiel Reijnen, 35, will end his road career after the 2021 season with a series of one-day races in France and Belgium before turning his focus to gravel racing.

Reijnen has been with the WorldTour team since 2016 after making a name for himself with the UnitedHealthcare squad, with whom he won two stages each in the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge and the Philadelphia Cycling Classic twice.

Since joining Trek-Segafredo, Reijnen has mainly played the role of a domestique with a speciality in the Classics and is looking forward to his final road events keeping true to that theme.

"It will be a nice way to finish things out because Belgium is the heart of cycling," Reijnen said. "It's also where it all started [for me] as a young kid going over to Belgium to get my feet wet. That's how you sort of decide whether or not this is what you want to do. And I think finishing there, sort of completes the circle.

"I've been a part of that Classics team now for quite a few years, half a decade, and it feels right to finish things out with those guys at those races. I think the race that will always stand out in my mind will be Flanders."

Reijnen said his loyalty to the Trek-Segafredo organisation came as a result of the value they put on his role.

"Trek continued to hire me, they continued to tell me that my job mattered, and then the individuals I was working for were guys that I believed in and valued me as a person. If they had taken me less seriously or if it had been more of a working relationship, I may not have lasted in that role as long as I did."

He said he had no regrets over the trajectory his career took after his successful years on the domestic racing scene, "because it allowed me to have a host of different experiences instead of one role for my whole career."

However, moving to gravel racing will allow him to race for his own results. "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."

There have been grumbles from the gravel racing community that the arrival of riders with a road mindset, where riders employ domestiques to help them win, is ruining the spirit of gravel racing. Reijnen says he's not going into the discipline to change it.

"I'm not here to change gravel or to put my stamp on it. 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."