Kai Reus Interview: Top talent returns to the sport in national time trial championship
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kai Reus Interview: Top talent returns to the sport in national time trial championship

by Shane Stokes at 2:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, National Championships
 
Reversing decision to retire, Dutchman speaks about getting his hunger back for cycling

Kai ReusThe comeback has officially begun. Almost a year after his last race, nine and a half months after announcing that he was giving up the bike, Kai Reus pinned on a number, accelerated out of the start gate and once again pummelled the pedals in a competitive event. Today’s Dutch time trial championships mark the return of one of the country’s most promising young riders and, at 26 years of age, he’s got time on his side.

For someone who has been away from the sport, placing 13th out of 40 riders was a very solid result. He didn’t start training until March and yet two thirds of the field were slower over the distance. That’s promising, but so too the simple fact that he has got his hunger and determination back.

Reus had a complicated time in recent seasons, having experiences that would put anyone’s dedication to the test. Everything started off well as a young rider; he provided a clear sign of his ability in 2003 when he won the world junior road race championship, and underlined that once again three years later when he took the Under 23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Reus then turned professional with the Rabobank team in 2007, having ridden previously with the youth and Continental equivalents, and made a solid start. Sixteenth overall in the Tour of Luxembourg and 20th in the prologue of the Ster Elktrotoer were encouraging results, as was his 21st in the GP Gerrie Knetemann.

Soon afterwards, though, everything took a turn for the worse. Eight days after the Knetemann race, on July 12th, he went training in the Alps. His team-mates were riding the Tour de France and although the then-22 year old wasn’t selected, he was determined to make the squad in future years. Mountain training was the best way for him to progress, and so he worked hard on the French climbs.

However Reus crashed on a descent and was knocked unconscious. He was found battered and bruised by the side of the road and taken to hospital with a wound to the back of his head, fractured ribs and a broken collarbone. He was placed in an artificial coma in order to try to limit brain damage, and remained unconscious for several days.

The Rabobank team was very concerned about his health and when Michael Rasmussen took the yellow jersey, he immediately dedicated it to him. It was three days after his crash and, at that point in time, they were very unsure how things would turn out. It seemed like the correct thing to do.

The first return:

Over time, Reus gradually recovered and recommenced his racing career in the 2008 Tour of Missouri. He continued to build form from that moment, and reached a high point in September of 2009 when he won the second stage of the Tour of Britain.

That success saw him take over the yellow jersey, and he held it for several days. He eventually finished fourth overall, showing that he was well on the way back. However more bad luck lay in store; he was subsequently hit by mononucleosis, and had to stop racing until May of last year. And although he finished a solid 35th overall in the Tour of Belgium, he had cracked mentally with the bike. Enough was enough.

"It's just not good," he said at the time. “There is more going on than I can quickly explain, but I've just had enough of all these setbacks. I have spent three years fighting to come back. There have been many ups and downs, and I must now look carefully at what I will do in the future.”

Reus quit the bike, saying that he wanted to take some time to himself and to work out what he wanted to do with his life. And while he didn’t rule out possibly making a return, nothing was guaranteed. Many wondered if he was lost to the sport forever.

Another new beginning:

Reus thought things through and decided to return to another sport he had done, one he had practiced prior to focussing on the bike. He had a speed staking background and that sport drew him in once more. He did some racing over the winter, enjoyed it, and found that he was pretty good. Over time, though, the bug bit him again and he started getting back out on his bike.

“I had a lot of troubles in the recent years,” he told VeloNation recently, talking by telephone after his return was confirmed. “Last season I said that it was over with the bike. Things hadn’t been easy…. I’d had lots of troubles and was always fighting, fighting. It was very tough.

“I took up speed skating and it was great. It was very relaxing for my brain. Every day I got on the ice and that was very good for me. For me, it was a different path…cycling and speed skating are very different, and so for me it was the best choice. It gave me a real break.

“At the same time, though, it was also very tough It was a very good form of training, I worked hard. Then in March I went back to the bike and started training there. I was thinking again about cycling. I’d got the hunger back for the bike, and decided to try it once more.”

Getting the kilometres in confirmed his choice and when Reus attended the presentation of the Internationale Juniorendriedaagse race on April 28th, he was ready to make an announcement.

“I've not yet put cycling out of my head….I plan to return to the peloton,” he said, according to BNDeStem.nl.

Almost two months later, he’s kept his word and is racing once again. He conceded three minutes to today’s winner Stef Clement, but in finishing just sixteen seconds off tenth place, he has shown that he still has what it takes. The talent which earned him the world junior title is still present.

Getting a mental break after his crash plus his episode of glandular fever was important, and so too giving himself the time to get physically well again. But the speed skating has also helped him; it refreshed his mind, while also strengthening his muscles.

“It’s very hard on the legs,” he said. “You are always bending in a low position. My legs are very strong now, and on the bike I have got a lot of power in my muscles. For me that is very good.

“I’ve got my hunger back again…it is great to get back to the bike. It is my life.”

Planning ahead:

When asked before the national championships what he wanted to achieve, Reus showed patience. It was, he said, most important to give himself time to get stronger while also remaining healthy. “The results are not so important for me right now. I will try to build good condition for next year, for 2012.

“There’s not that much racing in July when the Tour de France is on,” he continued. “But maybe in August I will do one day races in Belgium and Germany. There will be a lot of smaller events in Belgium so perhaps they will be best for training, and then I hope to do eight to ten 1.1 races this year.”

He competed today with the De Rijke Continental team, and will continue to race in its colours this season. If things go well, he’ll consider stepping things up. “Maybe next year a bigger team is okay…I will first ride these months with De Rijke, and then I can see if it is possible with another team,” he said.

During his time away from the bike, Reus has kept in contact with the Rabobank squad. He was part of the structure for many years, ever since he was a young rider, and they know both what ability he has, and also what hardships he has endured. The possibility remains that he might once again compete as part of that team.

For now, though, such talk is premature. Today’s time trial championship is a start, and there is a possibility he might also ride the road race on Sunday. After that he’ll continue to work hard, each pedal stroke moving him further and further away from the hardships he faced in July 2007, plus the bumpy road he experienced since.

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