By Marissa Tiel
When Jordan Cheyne was a senior in high school, he and his dad took a trip from their small hometown in southern Ontario to the West Coast.
Cheyne was scouting university options and he’d narrowed it down to two. First on the list: University of B.C. “I’d been shocked at how big the Vancouver campus was,” says Cheyne.
When they drove up to Kelowna to check out the UBC Okanagan campus, Cheyne knew it was a good fit. Seeing the hills and mountains, he could only imagine the quality training he’d be able to get in.
Fast forward eight years, a kinesiology degree and two pro cycling contracts, it’s clear the move to the Okanagan has been good to him. And while Cheyne, now 27, might have moved here for the landscape, he’s stayed for the community. He and his wife Emily now call Big White home.
Cheyne got a relatively late start in cycling. He dabbled in many sports growing up, playing hockey, wrestling in high school and participating in a bunch of endurance sports. It wasn’t until he was 17 that he raced on a bike. He’d been encouraged by his speed skating coach to try cycling in the off season. When it came time to hit the ice again, he opted to stay outside exploring on his bike rather than skating in circles inside.
The late start in cycling didn’t deter him. “You build your engine and you go pretty fast,” he says.
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Cheyne graduated from UBC Okanagan in 2015. He decided to get serious and stage his effort to go pro, attending a slate of races to get results that would get him noticed by the pro teams.
“I said now or never, try and get some results,” he says. In those races he was consistently one of the top amateur racers and captured the attention of the now defunct Jelly Belly-Maxxis team.
Cheyne signed his first pro contract in the fall of 2015 and the next year he pulled on a colourful Jelly Belly jersey to train and race with the team for the first time.
Showing up at the team camp felt a bit like being at a fantasy training camp.
Cheyne went from being a self-funded amateur athlete to having 10 team jerseys, 10 bibs and two team bikes – all supplied by the team. And he was getting paid to cycle.
“I was as nervous as my first bike race,” says Cheyne of his first race with Jelly Belly. He had no reason for nerves. He finished second and the team swept the podium.
Cheyne spent his formative years with the Jelly Belly-Maxxis team, learning from the experienced cyclists on the sport’s longest-running and most colourful team.
“The first few times a little kid yelled ‘Jelly Belly!’ in my general direction were certainly a shock,” he writes in a 2017 article.
“Before last year, I don’t think anyone had cheered that loudly for me other than an immediate family member.”
After two years with Jelly Belly, Cheyne was getting restless. “I had fallen into that helper role,” he says. He would set his teammates up for success, getting their water bottles and pulling them up the course. “It’s seven guys trying to set up one guy for that perfect situation,” he says.
Now in his mid-20s, Cheyne wanted to race for himself. He saw a new team enter the circuit in 2017: Elevate-KHS. “They were just doing everything right,” he says. “It’s always a risk to go to a new team.”
Cheyne started asking a few questions. The risk paid off and he signed on with them for the 2018 season, taking on a leadership role.
“We’ve had the most successful year I’ve had on a bike,” he says. This past season, Elevate-KHS won 50 races and had 84 podium finishes.
A lot of that success is due to how the team gets along both on and off the saddle.
“It’s all about chemistry in cycling,” Cheyne says. “When the team is good and the team can win a lot, that’s really rewarding.”
Cheyne has been able to support his teammates to great heights this year. Fellow Canadian James Piccoli, racing alongside Cheyne, was the first Quebec cyclist to win the Tour de Beauce in 24 years. Cheyne also had one of his top finishes at the Chrono Kristin Armstrong, finishing the time trial in third.
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