When I look back one year, at the beginning of my neo-pro season for the Jelly Belly-Maxxis team, the memories feel a bit like the early stages of a bike race. I was filled with that start-line trepidation as the first team camp approached, and I wondered whether I would be up to the task.
Happily, as it so often happens after the first few kilometers of a race, I quickly found my rhythm and my anxiety fell away. I was able to prove myself physically. I bonded with my teammates. I realized the potential that lay ahead. We enjoyed success in our early races as a team, and I came to recognize that I was not only surrounded by talent, but also by a group of all-around good guys.
Some things took some getting used to, and others left me in a (pleasant) state of disbelief. Jelly Belly, with its bright colors and delicious product, is one of the world’s most popular and uniquely loved cycling teams. The first few times a little kid yelled “Jelly Belly!” in my general direction were certainly a shock. (Once it happened at an airport, while I was getting a pat down from TSA.) Before last year, I don’t think anyone had cheered that loudly for me other than an immediate family member.
The fanfare wasn’t the only pleasant surprise that came with riding for Jelly Belly. On more than one occasion, I returned home from a ride to find massive, brightly branded boxes of every variety of Jelly Belly beans stacked up above the frame of my front door. Try explaining that to the neighbors.
Let me back up a minute. For those CyclingTips readers who may not be familiar with me, here’s a short introduction. I’m Jordan. I’m 25, and I’m from Ontario, though I now live in Kelowna, British Columbia. I’ve been riding and racing for about eight years now after falling in love with the sport during my senior year of high school. From there it was a rollercoaster journey through the trials of the amateur ranks, a university education, and life’s inevitable complications.
In 2015, after graduating from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics, I finally put the pieces together and achieved the results I needed to jump into the pro ranks. With a time-trial podium at the Tour de Beauce, and a close fourth place behind WorldTour pros at the Canadian Time Trial Championships, I secured a spot on the Jelly Belly-Maxxis team. The season that followed was sometimes scary, often surreal, and the ultimately most gratifying experience of my life so far.
My 2016 race season rapidly took on a serious tone on the Mogollon stage of the Tour of the Gila. On that day it became crystal clear that our team leader, Lachlan Morton, was back on peak form and would be a force to be reckoned with all season. Lachlan dominated that day and I was privileged to be an engine in the train as we helped protect his lead all the way to the finish.
The team had many, varied successes last year, and I had some good personal rides to go along with plenty of suffering. However, it was Lachlan’s big victories that defined our season. Taking the overall win at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah was the biggest win in the team’s 17-year history, and left an indelible mark on my approach to the sport.
I learned a lot from Lachlan — and all of my teammates — last year, in the casual yet often impactful conversation that happens in the days and hours between races. I learned the most by watching Lachlan that week in Utah and in training during the final lead up to the race. He was dedicated, poised, and had grit to spare. But more than anything else, he was calm. He knew what he was capable of, and simply went about making that capacity a reality. That kind of mental approach doesn’t come naturally to very many athletes. But I think it is something we can strive for, especially if we are lucky enough to see it firsthand like I did in Utah. More than anything, that is what I take away from my neo-pro season as I began preparation for my second year on the road with Jelly Belly.
With such a motivating year of racing to build upon, I’ve had a great off-season up to this point. I spent a refreshing six weeks in the Okanagan forests on my mountain bike for base training, and have since combined a warm weather SoCal training camp with many hard virtual miles on Zwift.
I have also tried to clean up a lot details and find “marginal gains” in my training and lifestyle. I have straightened out a misaligned pedal stroke with some orthotics and Speedplay cleat adjustment. My fiancé bought me a Vitamix, the Ferrari of blenders, to help whip up nutrient-dense, post-workout shakes. I have even been adding some sauna time to my winter gym workouts to explore the potential benefits to red blood-cell production and recovery.
It’s all minor stuff, but as I learned last year, a big part of the job as a professional cyclist is trying to do the small things right. And so, with our first team camp approaching, I think I’m in a good spot: Fit, but not too fit. Strong, but not razor sharp. Hungry, but not over eager.
With an exciting new schedule of races to look forward to in 2017, it’s easy to start dreaming. Jelly Belly’s season will begin with San Dimas Stage Race in March, but will kick off in earnest with our first UCI stage race at Tour of the Gila. From there it will be onto the Redlands Bicycle Classic, and perhaps the Amgen Tour of California. I will get to compete on home turf at the Tour de Beauce in June before the heavy late-season slate of racing including the Tour of Utah and the new stage races in Colorado and Virginia.
There should be plenty of chances to race against World Tour talent, and for the team to replicate the level of success we enjoyed in 2016. For myself, I hope to harness the experience I gained last season and race for personal results in some mountainous road races and time trials. I also want to continue to improve my professional craft, and to be a valuable teammate when it counts. With the team we have for 2017, and the way I am progressing in training, I can make those things happen. I think it’s going to be another good year.
About the author
Jordan Cheyne is a second-year member of the Continental team Jelly Belly-Maxxis. He lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, and has been racing bikes and writing about it for the last five years. His breakthrough result came with a podium at the 2015 Tour de Beauce, and he was a member of the winning Jelly Belly teams at the 2016 Tour of Gila and Tour of Utah. Follow his adventures on Twitter, Strava, and Pro Cycling Stats.