Kiel Reijnen (Trek-Segafredo) spent the days leading up to the start of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California completing a series of reconnaissance rides around Lake Tahoe with teammate Peter Stetina. Reijnen and Stetina used the time to acclimatize to altitude and explore the roads leading into the South Lake Tahoe stage 5 finish.
"We made sure we checked out the finish up in Heavenly Ski Resort," Reijnen said. "It’s some rough roads and a technical run in so I’m glad we saw it."
This is Reijnen’s fifth Tour of California, and his first with a WorldTour squad. Reijen’s performance at the 2016 USA Pro Challenge, which included a stage win and the points jersey, caught the eye of the Trek-Segafredo squad who were looking for riders who could perform in Europe and in the US stage races. Reijnen signed with Trek last September and spent his spring racing a heavier European schedule than past years.
Reijnen’s season started at the Santos Tour Down Under in January and included strong rides at the Strade Bianche and Volta a Catalunya.
"The spring was the same but different," Reijnen said. "Some familiar races, some new races but definitely the deep end of the swimming pool. Catalunya-Pais Vasco-Classics is a really hard block to matter how you cut it, and word on the street is, and I can’t speak from experience, but this was one of the harder Catalunyas the guys have seen over the years.
"I was definitely happy to survive that and stick my nose into the wind on a couple of occasions. At a number of the races I was playing the teammate role which was great, especially at Strade Bianche."
Teammate Fabian Cancellara won the Strade Bianche and with early help from Reijnen who finished 59th.
Reijnen’s Classics campaign was a hectic, but beneficial, learning experience.
"I spent the day in the break at La Flèche, I was glad to be aggressive but I paid for it a little bit at Liege," Reijnen said. "I think I got what I needed out of the spring and got some good experience for next year. I said at the beginning of the spring that I didn’t want to spend the entire season ‘learning’ and figuring out the ropes, I wanted to make and impact."
Reijnen is planning on starting to make that impact here in California where he will be riding for GC leader Peter Stetina and hunting for stage wins. Reijnen likens the Tour of California to a family reunion where he is surrounded by by old friends and the familiar amenities of American life. He returns to the U.S. peloton with a different kind of fitness and bigger goals.
"I plan to have an aggressive Tour of California," Reijnen said. "Last year was tough. There was not as many intermediate stages for a rider like myself. I lamented the fact that I didn’t create more opportunities so I don’t want to miss any opportunities this week."
In addition to supporting Stetina’s GC aspirations Reijnen is targeting a handful of the mid week stages, including Stage 4 in Laguna Seca and Stage 5 in South Lake Tahoe, as races where he might be able to have an impact.
Beyond California Reijnen is looking towards U.S. Nationals in Winston-Salem, NC, a race he has targeted for years. Reijnen will head to North Carolina a few days before the race to check out the new course and dial in the finishing turns.
"It’s a very different style of racing of the many different versions I’ve done of it," Reijnen said. "There is no big climb in the middle or even close to the end. I think what we will be looking at is almost a kermesse style of racing, a lot of attacking and really aggressive. You will have to risk losing to win that race this year."
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