Amity Rockwell, Kiel Reijnen and Ruth Winder are tackling the toughest races in North America and spreading good vibes
Trek’s new all-surface program doesn’t fit a neat definition, just like cycling’s burgeoning scene of gravel and adventure races.
The program’s three riders — 2019 Unbound Gravel champion Amity Rockwell, and former Trek-Segafredo riders Kiel Reijnen and Ruth Winder — will take on the ever-evolving North American calendar of gravel, mountain bike and occasional road events under the ‘Driftless’ moniker, referring to an area of eclectic terrain, flora and fauna in the Upper Midwest. Much like riders in Trek’s C3 freeride program, they’ll be competing as individuals with a shared passion for riding, each with unique sponsors, as well as kit and bike designs that reflect who they are.
They will be trying to win and push their physical limits, yes. But they’ll also be ambassadors of an evolving discipline, working to strengthen its foundations on community and the simple joys of riding. They’ll also be paying tribute to the outside influences — the streets and trails, the people and land — that have made cycling a spiritually rewarding endeavor for them and countless others.
“I think that’s why the gravel model has been so successful. It is presenting all these different personalities that you can really get behind and get to know, and really support in a genuine, human to human way,” Amity says. “You can get close to it.”
Gravel racing is cycling’s fastest growing discipline, coming of age in North America. The races are often long — 200 miles to complete Unbound’s premiere event — over rocky, rutty, muddy and terse terrain. But though undeniably challenging, gravel racing is also cycling’s most inclusive discipline. At many races, anyone can sign up and take the starting line next to a pro. And before, during and after every race, riders will often assist each other with the inevitable flat tires and broken chains that come with punishing conditions.
If gravel racing seems to contain a lot of gray areas, well, that’s because it does. It’s a young sport, with a culture and community that is still taking shape. But if there is one encapsulating feature, it’s shared experience. As Reijnen once explained to the Race Shop, “the finish line is not the whole point.” Wherever Trek’s all-surface riders go, expect to see them swapping stories with fans and fellow competitors along the course and basking in the experience, no matter where they place.
“We’ll support each other at the events, whether it’s borrowing equipment or giving a hug when the day doesn’t go well, or a high five when it does,” Kiel says. “And then talking about how best to relate those experiences to people.”
Trek’s all-surface program is a tribute to everyone who has ever come home from a ride with dirt in their hair and a smile on their face. Whether you ride with aero bars or on a full suspension rig, there’s a place for you. Follow along. It’s going to be so much fun.
Meet Amity Rockwell
Amity is one of the newest additions to the Trek family. Unlike Kiel and Ruth, who both had long careers in road cycling with Trek-Segafredo, Amity began her pro career in gravel racing, and has already staked her claim as one of the fastest riders in the scene. In 2019, she won Unbound Gravel, arguably the biggest event in gravel racing, then chased that performance with a second place finish in 2021.
Amity is drawn to long distances and big physical challenges, a trait she may have inherited from her ultra-marathoner mother.
“That’s just always what I grew up with and what I gravitated towards,” Amity says. “And women’s road racing is never long enough. It never reaches a distance to where I start to excel ahead of anybody else. Whereas gravel racing, from the beginning, was always like, ‘All right, everybody’s in this race, it’s the same distance, and it’s generally really far and pretty hard.’”
Amity is repping the Bay Area. Her mother was a child of late ’50s-early ’60s San Francisco, and made sure Amity listened to plenty of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and other artists from the Summer of Love when she was growing up. Amity’s bike and kit have a touch of psychedelic flair that also reflects her love of printmaking and the iconic concert posters of the era.
Amity’s top tube includes an icon of Sutro Tower, the enormous radio and television tower overlooking San Francisco. Sutro Tower was Amity’s guiding beacon on long bike rides. It reminds her of family.
“My mom grew up in a house right at the bottom, and I used to go there every single weekend to see my family when I was a kid,” Amity says. “You can see it when you’re climbing Mount Tam, when you’re out on all these incredible roads and trails we have out here. You can pretty much almost always look towards the city and if you have a clear view, that tower’s sticking up above the fog. It’s this really awesome beacon for me of, ‘Oh, that’s exactly where home is.'”
Amity may have big ambitions in the sport, but she loves gravel racing for the moments of perseverance and human connection it creates. Some of her favorite memories include forging through wind and getting pelted by hail. Amity is a gravel racer, pure and simple, and she can’t wait to get started with Trek and push herself and the sport even farther.
“Gravel just feels like the gates are wide open, and if anybody wants to put in the work, they can get there,” Amity says. “It’s really been super easy to feel supportive towards anyone who also wants what you have, because I very much feel like we can all have it at this point.”
Meet Kiel Reijnen
Kiel likes the term “Driftless,” which describes an area untouched by glaciers. In his mind, it parallels the idea “that gravel riding is about getting to those unadulterated places.”
He’s shifting to North America’s all-surface scene after spending the last six years racing primarily in Europe as a domestique for Trek-Segafredo. Though Reijnen has staked his pro career thus far in road racing, he has always held a special place in his heart for gravel. He’s a noted outdoorsman hailing from the Pacific Northwest, and he has already made regular appearances at races like Unbound, including a particularly adventurous outing in 2021.
At 35 years old, Kiel is also ready to spend more time at home with his wife and two daughters. He has also picked up work at his father’s small local residential construction company. He’s settling back into a rhythm in a place he loves after years of near-constant international travel.
“I am of this place, and I can’t think about my career as a cyclist without relating to the place that I live,” Kiel says. “And so I’m really excited to share this place with the world.”
Kiel is a member of the Cowlitz Tribe. He consulted with local tribes before working with Trek designers on a bike and kit that incorporate Northwest Coast art styles. Kiel spends so much time riding on tribal land that he wanted to pay tribute.
“It was really a pleasure to work with artists who are much more talented than myself in expressing some of these ideas,” Kiel says. “I got to reach out to some of the local tribes and ask for a lot of advice. And I think what I ended up with is something that represents me and the place that I’m from.”
Kiel believes that his career has given him a unique perspective. Though he has traveled to some of the great cycling locations in the world, few things have provided him more joy than finding unique ways to discover new areas in places he ostensibly knows. More than anything, Kiel is excited to inspire more people to fall in love with their hometown trails.
“I desperately want people to realize that adventure lives outside their backdoor,” Kiel says. “I think where I live is really cool, but there’s something cool everywhere, and you don’t have to fly to some exotic place in Colombia or in the Swiss Alps to have an experience with a gravel bike. You can find it in your backyard.”
Meet Ruth Winder
Ruth retired from road cycling with Trek-Segafredo after this past season because she felt, like Kiel, that it was time to come home. She left the sport at just 28 years old, after compiling 17 wins including 2021 Brabantse Pijl (thanks to an all-time great bike throw), the general classification at the 2020 Tour Down Under and the 2019 United States women’s road race national title.
Ruth may have been on top of her game, but she was ready to be closer to her fiancé, friends and family, and to discover a new side of cycling.
“This year, everywhere I go is new,” Ruth says. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like to bike 200 miles. Why would I have ever done that before?”
Ruth calls Boulder County, Colo., home, and she’s excited to explore the surrounding area even more. Despite a career that requires a lot of travel, she’s a self-described “homebody,” and she’s most looking forward to racing events within driving distance of her house like the LeadBoat Challenge.
Ruth’s kit and bike depict Colorado’s spring and summer wildflowers, and her bike is also a functional field guide to the flora, complete with a legend on the downtube identifying each species.
In another sense, the designs are a reminder to Ruth to appreciate the world around her. Life as a WorldTour racer is demanding, requiring meticulous training and focus to maintain a competitive edge. Ruth has proven that she can thrive on cycling’s biggest stages. Now, she’s looking forward to falling in love with riding her bike again.
“I don’t think that I’m looking for any sort of physical gain or soul searching that comes from suffering. I feel like I’ve had quite enough of that, actually,” Ruth says. “There’s so much of my life that has been identified by my results and how fit I am at any given moment. I hope that I can learn this year to put that aside and enjoy bikes for bikes, people for people, and slow down.”
Ruth doesn’t have any competitive goals this year. For the first time in a long time, she doesn’t even have a coach. That’s not to say she’s taking competitions lightly. But she’s also working to unload the WorldTour’s heavy baggage and rediscover why she enjoyed putting herself through pain on her bike when she started her career, and create community in the process.
“I don’t expect for one second that it’s going to be easy at any point in any race,” Ruth says. “But I think that it’ll be fun to experience the suffering with different people in a different way.”