Kiel Reijnen has a history of success racing in Colorado, and he returns to his former home state hoping to nab his first victory of 2017 during this week's Colorado Classic. The Trek-Segafredo rider is at the end of his contract with the WorldTour team, and hasn't put his arms in the air since he won a stage and the overall points classification in the Tour of Utah last year. But he's not letting his contract situation worry him as he focuses on the opening stage in Colorado Springs, a course well-suited to his characteristics.
"I try to keep the contract stuff separate from the racing," Reijnen said after the opening press conference. "I realize that it's impossible to do. For me, this race has very little to do with keeping a job or deciding a future. I love this race, and I have a great team behind me here. I've been training hard for it. I've tried to put the contract stuff out of my mind. I've been really happy at Trek so far. I think that they'd like me to stick around."
Reijnen, a former Boulder resident, relocated to Bainbridge Island in Washington state, but is back in his comfort zone in Colorado on familiar roads.
"It's very comfortable. I drove myself to the press conference and didn't need the GPS. It's all very familiar," he said.
Reijnen has been racing primarily in Europe since his move to the WorldTour, but still has the advantage over some of the Europeans when it comes to American-style racing.
"In terms of my skill set, I prefer the shorter, punchier circuits anyway, and there are a few of those in this race. I've worked to prepare for that. Racing in America is definitely different than racing in Europe. Each continent has its own vibe. It takes a while to learn the ropes – when to dig in, when to relax, and where you need to be position-wise."
The 31-year-old spent the past few weeks training at altitude in his wife's cabin in the mountains, building his top-end up for the six trips up to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. He will need to withstand the inevitable attacks there if he hopes to make the front group and have a chance for a stage win. Although the climb comes with 10 kilometres to go, there's enough descent and flat roads for strong sprinters to rejoin. Elia Viviani won a similar stage there in 2014.
"Looking back at the [power] files from two years ago, everything looks pretty good," Reijnen said. "In theory I have form to do a similar result to those years, I just need the tactics to play out my way. Six-man teams, it's hard to dictate the tactics, but I think there will be some exciting reduced-bunch sprints."
A stage win in the Colorado Classic would be personally satisfying, but would also help with those critical contract negotiations. Reijnen has more on his mind than the short-term goal of having a job next year. He's got the 2020 Olympics in his mind, and is considering dipping his toe into the track racing scene to see if that could be a possible avenue for a bid to make Team USA.
USA Cycling has been aiming to assemble a men's team pursuit squad for Tokyo to go along with the silver-medal winning women's team. The federation hasn't managed to find the right riders yet and would be wise to look toward the road peloton for the track endurance team.
"All I would say about the track is, I want to be in Tokyo regardless of whether it's road or track," Reijnen said. "The track thing is just a seed of an idea. Right now, these next couple of years everything's about the road."