By Jordan Cheyne
It gives me a bit of a boost when I look down at the top tube of my 2016 race bike and see the Canadian flag sitting amongst a sea of jelly bean decals.
I am the only Canadian on this year’s Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis roster but our bikes are from Montreal-based Argon 18. Our Gallium Pro, Nitrogen and E-118 Next bikes are all top quality racing machines and I couldn’t have asked for better performing equipment in my first year as a professional.
But riding Argon 18 actually means more to me personally than lightweight, aerodynamic and smooth riding bikes. Argon 18 has played a big role in my cycling career.
My first racing bike wasn’t an Argon 18 and that was actually a good thing. About two months after I got my svelte, glossy black Marin Stelvio, I entered my first junior road race and duly snapped it in half in a crash. The rest of that first season is a bit of a blur of crashes and rookie mistakes. I definitely loved bike racing, but I had road rash and broken bike parts as souvenirs, not trophies or medals.
The one shining moment of that year came in late summer. I summoned all my courage during the Peterborough Cycling Club’s “Thursday Night Race” and followed local Pro Mark Walters as he attacked up a long hill. I desperately clung to his wheel for 10 or 15 km and apparently left an impression. He told me I had some power in my scrawny 114 lbs. frame and offered to coach me the following season. I had grown a couple inches by then and much to my delight I needed a new bike. Mark offered to sell me his Team RACE-Pro bike from the year before, a white and red Argon 18 Platinum. I took it for a test ride and the extra stiff Platinum frame felt like a rocket. Mark had a deal.
A few weeks later, I made the breakthrough that committed me fully to the sport. On a whim, my Dad and I drove down to Cambridge, New York, and I raced the 2009 Tour of the Battenkill Junior Race. I broke away on the final dirt climb and soloed to my first ever win with a couple young talents named Joe Dombrowski and Luke Keough hot on my heels.
A couple weekends later I entered my first Pro half race with my older Mazur Coaching teammates. Racing around in some farm fields just outside Philadelphia, I won again out of a daylong breakaway. Suddenly my life was all about the bike, and the bike was an Argon 18.
I guess I impressed team boss Mirek Mazur enough to receive my own team bike for the 2010 season. At the time, getting a free bike was about the coolest thing that had ever happened to me. That season we rode the Argon 18 Gallium Pro, the top of the line model.
I had another good year as I poured all of myself into the dream of becoming a pro cyclist. I pulled off a surprise podium in the National Championships and earned the chance to race in top professional events like the Tour of Utah and the Univest Grand Prix. I don’t think I will ever be that excited or that confident in bike racing again, it was just too good.
In 2011, I began my Biochemistry degree at the University of British Columbia and things slowly changed. I eagerly signed with top amateur team H&R Block for the next season and I trained harder than ever despite a full course load. I tried to be as lean as I could and sacrificed sleep for early morning gym workouts. I got hit by a car in training and my prized Argon 18 Platinum became a part of an insurance claim. It all added up and my body began to fail as chronic fatigue took over. I crashed, burned and more than erased the progress I had made towards my dreams in cycling. I never thought it would take almost four years to find my feet again.
I never gave up: it was never an option.
The next few seasons were a struggle against my body. A few good results were sprinkled along a road of inconsistent health and disastrous runs of form. I just kept doing my best to manage myself and slowly claw my way back.
Finally, in 2015, with the support of my partner Emily and new coach Chris Baldwin, I found my groove again. I had steadily good performances with a few great days at Tour de Beauce, Nationals and Cascade Classic. Late in the fall, I anxiously opened an e-mail from Jelly Belly Pro Cycling director Danny Van Haute and read the words I had been dreaming of for six years. I was going to be a Pro in 2016. I would get the chance to race against the world’s best on America’s oldest professional team.
My dream was back on track. Fittingly, I would be back on an Argon 18.