Jelly Bean Dreams: My First Week As a Pro
What is it like to be a new, young, first year pro cyclist? Jordan Cheyne runs through his first professional race and his experiences with the Jelly Belly pro cycling team. “I had been looking forward to this moment for a long time, whether I admitted it or not. My first race as a professional was underway.” Take it away Jordan.
Like almost everything else that happened last week, my first race with the Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis team felt surreal. The start of the Boulevard Road Race was in a casino parking lot in a place called Oak Springs, CA. The race was a hilly loop through the mountain foothills along the Mexican border. The Casino was the only sign of civilization for miles. As the officials gave final instructions, I nervously looked around at my 9 new teammates and then between my legs at the brand new Argon-18 with my name decaled on the top tube. I had been looking forward to this moment for a long time, whether I admitted it or not. The whistle blew, I clipped in and it was happening. My first race as a professional was underway.
My conversations with Jelly Belly began last Fall following my best year ever on the bike. After about 2 years racing every National Racing Calendar (NRC) and UCI ranked event I could as an amateur, I finally found some traction with key results in the Tour de Beauce and Cascade Classic last summer. In October, after months of uncertainty and persistence, I put pen to paper on a professional contract with the Jelly Belly team for the 2016 season. After the initial ecstasy faded, it was almost 4 months of patient waiting until the team’s first weeklong sponsor camp in Southern California. That wait finally ended last week when I arrived at the Carlsbad Hyatt Hotel and was greeted Director Sportif Danny Van Haute along with my new teammates and the rest of the staff.
From the start the vibe was very relaxed and purposeful. The week’s events flowed naturally as you would perhaps expect from a team that has been doing this type of thing for 17 years. Straight away I had team mechanic Kevin helping me customize the fit of my brand new team bike. What seemed like moments later, I was in hair and make-up preparing for my team headshots. Next, I was excitedly digging my personal 50lb stock of Jelly Belly products marveling at the 100+ flavors I never knew existed. Extensive team photos followed the next day and we had one of cycling’s best photographers shooting us for hours just as he has for countless World Tour squads. The team business continued with presentations from sponsors FSA, Bike Tag, Stages, InPact, Doc’s Skincare and of course Jelly Belly.
At times it was overwhelming and at others it felt just like the dream I had conjured over the preceding snowy months training in Kelowna. But mostly it just felt natural, relaxed and fun. Among my teammates were guys that had posted top results in races like U-23 Paris Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and worn leaders jerseys in America’s top races. But I never felt the weight of that pedigree and spent more time laughing than I did trying to say the right things. The prevailing attitude seems to be: everyone wants the team to win, but they want to have fun doing it.
About 50 kms into the Boulevard race, that attitude is front and center. The team has already ripped the race to shreds as I drag myself across to the leading break to make it 5 Jelly Belly’s and 2 other riders. My teammates give me a pat on the back and share a congratulatory laugh about how well things have gone. From there it is back to business and over the next 90 kms I carefully follow directions from my more experienced mates. Our tactics play our perfectly and I am able to crack away in the last 10kms to finish 2nd behind teammate Lachlan Morton. At the finish we score positions 1-2-3-6 and 10 from the 60-man field and before the sweat dries we are all laughing and smiling again.
As I wade through the airport melee on my way home I can still feel the glow of satisfaction from doing my job well in my first test with the team. I know things won’t always turn out so perfectly and there will be struggles ahead but I can’t help but be excited. I guess I’m a Pro now and I think I’m going to like it.