Splunk is sponsoring the men’s and women’s Trek-Segafredo road cycling teams in 2019, and will provide both teams and Trek with actionable data from across the Trek ecosystem—from the factory floor to the finish line. In this athlete Q&A, we get to know professional cyclist Kiel Reijnen.
How did you get into riding, and how did that turn into racing?
I grew up in a unique place, Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. I had a teacher who was into racing, and he invited a friend and me to come over to Seattle and do a Thursday night practice crit, and it was a great experience. I think I made it all of two laps, but it changed how I thought about bikes. I started riding more and was excited about racing Europe and seeing the world. I kept at it, moved to Boulder, Colorado for college—there was a big biking scene there—so it wasn’t hard to get sucked in after that. I moved back to the island where I’m from after college, and I started racing professionally. Next year will be my fourth season with the team.
What’s a piece of gear you can’t live without?
The bike! I also like wool socks and jerseys—I like everything wool. It rains a lot where I’m from, and the technology in cycling has come a long way, everything from the bike itself to shoes, helmets and sunglasses, including clothing. And there’s a place for all of that awesome tech clothing, but when I’m home training, I like wearing wool.
What data insights would you like to have about racing or your performance that you haven’t been able to get yet?
I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I’m still not 100 percent sure what kind of race or course suits me. I have an idea, but it’s hard to quantify at the finish of a race. If you didn’t have enough in the end, was it because your sprint wasn’t good enough? Or because you were too tired going into the sprint, or bad tactics? Or the wrong tire pressure? There are so many variables and if we can take those inputs and digest them into something comprehensive, then we might stand a chance at picking out the one variable that was holding us back. So I think in a sport like cycling, in a heavily tactical situation, it can be difficult to pick out the thing that went wrong. There’s an overwhelming number of data points and variables that go into a six-hour race, so [it would be helpful] to consolidate that information into something palatable.
What do you find most challenging about racing?
It’s an incredibly dynamic sport because it happens all over the globe. We’re constantly interacting with different cultures, foods, places, temperatures, and you have to be adaptable. Being that adaptable is difficult, especially when you’re trying to fine-tune your body. You can do all of the right training, but when you have to fly from the U.S. to Japan for a race, it’s hard to know how jet lag is going to affect you that particular time. The ever-changing environment is one of the hardest things in cycling. Then, there’s weather—sometimes we’re racing in the sun, and then the next day we’re in the snow.
Let’s talk about 2019—what are you most looking forward to next year?
The cool thing about cycling is that after every season you have this decompression time and you can assess what went wrong, what went right, and the next year is a fresh start—you can reinvent yourself every year. So that’s something I’m looking forward to for next season. There are some changes on the team, so every year you have to figure out how your skills and abilities can best help the team perform. The last couple of seasons I’ve been on the classic squad, so doing those races is something I get very excited about. There’s a lot of history in those races and incredible crowds. People in those nations are really excited about bike racing, so it always feels good to be in an environment where people are jazzed about what you’re doing.
Do you have a favorite race?
Flanders. There are only two places in the world where the crowds are that good: Basque Country and Belgium. It’s the worst place to ride a bike—it’s not flat, but there are no real climbs. It’s grey, raining, [there are] beat up cobblestone streets, cracked pavements, gutters and road furniture. There’s nothing about it that screams “ride your bike here,” but people love cycling there more than anywhere in the world. Having the crowds electrify the roads we race on makes the experience fun for us, too.
Do you have a “Mount Everest” race?
If there’s a race I need to check off the bucket list, it would probably be Roubaix. It’s the only monument I haven’t done and it’s a legendary race. It doesn’t suit me super well, but I’d still like to give it a try.
With the new partnership with Splunk, what are you looking forward to?
Sometimes it’s hard to quantify in cycling what went wrong or right, because there are so many variables. Being able to narrow things down with data analysis would be a huge step forward for us. Being able to analyze a course ahead of time and know that the best bike to choose would be the Madone with four wheels because we ran the calculations and whatever you lose in weight you’re going to make up in aerodynamics, or maybe with the crosswinds, it’s better to use a shallower wheel. And depending on your role, too, your equipment choices could change. Taking out some of the guesswork is what I’m most excited about with this partnership.