With its revamped roster, new attitude and stage race wins under its belt, the Jelly Belly presented by Kenda squad wants to make a splash at the Amgen Tour of California. One such rider is overall winner at the Tour of Thailand, Kiel Reijnen, who wants to show that he can be competitive against the European riders.
“For me being competitive means animating the race,” said Reijnen just as he arrived in Sacramento last week, “it’s one thing to be packfill, it’s easy to be packfill, to follow wheels. “In fact you can follow wheels all the way to a good result if you’re clever but for me, making an impact here is about animating the race whether it be in breakaways or finishing in the top 10 or 15 overall or on the podium on a stage, any of those things would qualify to animating the race.”
The 23-year old is going in with a focus on GC but as always will keep is options open. “With any race play it as it comes because things change in a flash. If a stage presents itself then of course a stage result is good, I don’t think we’re going to limit ourselves by saying we’re only looking at GC or we’re only looking for stage wins but we also have a really strong squad here with eight guys that are capable of doing those jobs so it’s not like we have only one or two guys that we have to rely on for breakaways and GC.”
While many other riders were previewing the stages, Reijnen and his teammates were racing in Asia, getting two 10-day stage races and two overall wins in their legs. But while at Redlands in March, he did do a little reconnaissance and then did his homework.
“With the amount of climbing this year and surprised climb, climbs that are easy to misjudge so for a race like this it’s imperative to study the bible.”
Reijnen stages. Although not his type of stage with an expected sprint finish, it “would mean a lot” for him to do well in stage 1.
Team Jelly Belly P/B Kenda is teaming up with the non-profit organization Women of Worth (WOW) to raise funds at the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. Women of Worth is a non-profit organization based in Cedar Ridge, CA, near the start of this year’s Tour. WOW is dedicated to helping women and families escaping domestic violence and sexual assault. The organization assists these women and families in rebuilding their lives and creating their future.
Five years ago, Reijnen lost his Aunt Hetty Willams in a tragic incident of domestic violence. His two cousins Sarah Reijnen and Briana Williams are working with WOW to establish “Hetty’s Haven”, a safe home for women escaping violent environments, in honor of their mother.
“We’ll be out there with purple wristband for stage 1, helping to raise awareness for her and the cause, women of worth is associated with that. To do well there would be really awesome but since it’s not really my course I might have to wait until we hit the climbs.”
Then of course, the climber has his eye on the Queen stage. “The Big Bear day is shockfull of really steep climbing, that might not be a day for breakaway guys but it might be a day where only twenty guys finish in the front so I really want to keep my head there if I can make it to the top with a bunch of climbers then it would be great to have a sprint at it.”
Another stage that got his attention is the finale the Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village/Agoura Hills Circuit Race with the climb on Mulholland.
Momentum. Not only building from his previous season but building from the new team attitude and a great start of the season. Reijnen joined the team two years ago as a stagiaire and 2009 was his first full-time season with the squad where he “did a ton of races”.
“I got to race hard and do it weekend after weekend after weekend so this year for me is a chance to take all the experience and put it towards towards getting a result, making an impact at specific races or specific stages. It’s not just about volume anymore.”
This year, the team has racked up wins and podiums, starting with the Redlands Bicycle Classic prologue, stage win and overall for Reijnen in Thailand and overall win for Mike Friedman at the Tour of Korea.
“The mentality on the team has completely changed we’re all here to win, we’re all here to help each other win. If one of the guys is going well then I’m going to do my darnedest to make sure that he wins. That is probably the biggest change aside of what you can do for training is just that mentality and the early season has gone so well, we’re going to continue with that mentality into this race.”
What brought on this new team attitude that was already mentioned at training camp?
“The core guys stayed on but there was a bit of a change of guard with the team and I think it helps to bring some guys that you weren’t seeing very much of to the surface and then we also brought on some guys who had a lot to contribute to the team from the get go. And that’s led to all of believing in each other and working for each other, it’s hard to say that one thing in particular has made that change for us but a lot of different things, what we did at camp, doing the Navy Seals training, doing the long rides together in the rain, going overseas has really made a big difference.”
And the boys are having fun. “We’re calling ourselves the Wolf Pack from now on.” he laughed.
Is this the year? “Kiel is a climber, he’s improving every year, this year this is year to breakthrough.” Team DS Danny Van Haute said at training camp back in February. He’s on the right track with his win at the UCI 2.2 Tour of Thailand where after sweeping the opening prologue, the team had to defend against everyone in stifling heat.
“It was incredibly hot, a couple of times different guys were vomiting, it was just so overwhelmingly hot, just oppressive. “ Reijnen explained. The team was expecting the tactics would lead to a breakaway on the first stage but instead his teammates had to ride at the front and protect the jersey all day long. “Once the day was done I was the only guy within striking distance of the jersey and so then our cards changed and the rest of the race was about protecting that jersey. The race was incredibly hard but much harder for my teammates than me because they did all the work.”
“It’s awesome,” he said about having the team work for him, “and the only thing that’s more awesome than that is getting to repay the favor.”
So is this his year? “Yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t be here doing this if I didn’t think it was. Having that really long season last year with a lot of races when I was racing even if I didn’t feel one hundred percent really gave me the foundation to do well this year. It’s been cool not just because we’re doing well at races and that I’m racing at a higher level than I have in the past, it’s things like Tour of Korea, Mike won but we also won the team GC, I was fifth and Will [Routley] was seventh overall so that was kind of taping into the fact that we’re doing this as a team effort. I really want to step up this year but the team has been conducting itself in a way that is conducive to having me do that.”
Back to California. Wins for domestic teams have been few and far between but he is confident that Jelly Belly-Kenda call do it this year, and Reijnen is not intimidated by lining up next to ProTour riders.
“We’re here to aim high. We’ve been winning races all season and I’m not about to read the start list and say ‘oh man I read about this guy in this magazine or that’. Once we’re out there, we’re all bike racers and we’re all here to do our jobs. We’re going to go in with the same mentality we’ve had all year, we’re here to win, we’re here to make impact. Look to the guys to do that, we’re not going to be sitting back. There are a lot of guys that will the coat tails of the ProTour teams as long as they can until they either get tired or they end up with a decent result. We’re not going to sit at the back and do that, we’re going to be at the front drilling it, on the climbs, in the crosswinds wherever we get the opportunity we’re going to take it because that’s what we’ve done this year and it’s really been successful for us.”
Another thing that the team will have going for them is that they are probably underestimated by many other teams and Reijnen plans to take advantage of it.
“I was actually reading some magazines today and they’re mentioning all these teams, this guy has a good shot at this or that and you don’t hear Jelly Belly p/b Kenda’s name mentioned. And it made me laugh, instead of worrying about it I just said to myself ‘well it’s that much better for us, we’ll get the element of surprise’. If anyone has been paying attention to what we’ve done since the start of the season we’re the strongest domestic team here.”
The race is also a good chance for Reijnen to test and measure himself with a goal of racing in the ProTour in his future.
“I think races like this are a good opportunity to test whether that puts you on or off, to see how hard it is to ride at that level, get a feel for being on the road all the time. I have to at least give myself the opportunity to try it, if I don’t try it I can’t say whether I would have enjoyed it or not.”
With multiple interviews scheduled the day I talked to him, Reijnen laughed when asked how he keeps from not going nuts with all the media hoopla at the Tour of California.
Then he continued, “You can go on auto pilot sometimes, we do this all year. We have to keep it in our heads, it’s just another race and the media, like the magazines if they’re talking you up or talking you down, it doesn’t really matter because they don’t know. We’re the only ones that determine our faith, you have to believe that. There’s a fine line between confidence and cocky and I certainly don’t want to be cocky but at the same time you have to hold your ground in believe in yourself to do the job at hand.”
Visit the Jelly Belly Booth during Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California to find out more about WOW. Make a donation and you’ll receive an autographed team water bottle as a thank you. Or donate online at women-of-worth.org