What's Cool In Road Cycling

Project Echelon Tour of the Gila

Rider Blog: Jordan Cheyne is in his first season with the Project Echelon Racing team after 6 seasons as a professional, including 2 with Jelly Belly and 3 with Elevate/KHS. Jordan is an old friend of PEZ and is back to give us an update on his career and the up-and-coming Tour of the Gila.

Click Here to hear the Listen Live audio broadcast, and stay tuned for the live video link:

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Please introduce yourself and give us a little background on you and your team.
My name is Jordan Cheyne and this is my first season as a rider on Project Echelon Racing. I have raced as a professional for the past 6 seasons including 2 on the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling team and 3 on Elevate/KHS team. Those seasons were very successful, I personally had podiums in UCI Stage races and both teams were ranked #1 in North America for long periods. In joining Project Echelon my aim is to bring that experience to a growing program with a hugely talented roster. After losing much of the past 2 years to the pandemic I am excited to get back to racing and winning with a great new squad.

Project Echelon is more than a racing team though and that was another big attraction to the program for me. The team’s mission statement is to “Educate, equip, and empower veterans and their communities through physical activity and self discovery”. In a practical sense that means providing veterans across the country with access to bikes, coaching and group events to aid in mental and physical health. I am personally coaching 4 veterans this year, helping them prepare for everything from crits to gravel races. This aspect of the team is very rewarding and it’s an honor to wear the same jersey as our veteran community riders when we take on races like Tour of the Gila.

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What’s your history with this race and what makes this race unique?
The Tour of the Gila has been a special race for me over the course of my career. In 2016, my first season as a pro on Jelly Belly, we took the red leader’s jersey on stage 1 with Lachlan Morton and defended it all the way to win the overall. In 2019, the last time Gila was held we repeated the same feat on Elevate with James Piccoli. Both wins were a big part of my development as a rider. First with Jelly Belly, I really learned how to be a pro in a high-pressure situation and with Elevate I learned to be a leader on the road and guide the team in our GC defense.

Gila stands out in the North American calendar because of its unique challenges. The climbs are long and steep, the time trial is crushingly difficult and the high altitude makes all of that sting just a bit more. A lot of Gila winners have gone on to the World Tour like Lachlan and James and that is not a coincidence-it takes a great rider to win there.

Any special memories or stories from racing here in the past?
Personally I will never forget the closing kms of the final Gila Monster stage in 2016. I had done my work and dropped off before the final climb and was crawling my way up to the finish and hoping we could seal the deal. Then my radio crackled and I heard “Lachlan Morton is your Tour of the Gila winner” as our director echoed the race official’s final communication. It was an electric feeling I’d never experienced in racing before.

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Goals for Gila 2022 – what do you and the team hope to achieve?
I think the goal is simple: to win the GC and the key stages. We have riders like Tyler Stites, Richard Arnopol and possibly myself who can contend with the best on GC and as well as weapons like Stephen Vogel, George Simpson and Zach Gregg for the time trial and potential crosswinds. It might be the strongest overall team I’ve ever been a part of so we can and should aim high.

What would you say to riders and fans who haven’t seen this race before?
The Tour of the Gila will be different to anything you have ever watched in US racing. The event takes place in stunning high desert scenery with climbs and descents that are intimidating just to drive through. It is somehow serene and brutal at the same time. You will see fireworks on the climbs akin to those in the grand tours. The location is fairly remote but it would be worth the trip every time for a fan of top caliber bike racing.

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