Editor’s note: Jordan Cheyne’s “The Open Pro” series details his experiences with high-level Zwift training as a rider in the pro Continental ranks. You can read his past posts here.
Part 1: Suffering and Success on the Crit Squad
June has always been a big month for me in terms of racing. As a Canadian growing up on the heavily wintered east coast, June was usually the first time my fitness started to click into gear for the season. In my early seasons the June focus was coveted National Championships. As I progressed in the sport the Tour de Beauce was added to the month’s big goals as I began to test my mettle against North America’s best riders at the iconic Quebec stage race.
This year, however, featured another unusual addition as I found myself on the Elevate-KHS roster for the National Criterium Calendar’s Armed Forces Cycling Classic in Washington, DC, featuring a pair of the year’s most hard-fought crit races. The combination of these events made for a heavy and diverse slate of racing that would turn out to be the most successful 2-week period in my cycling career.
The trip didn’t start successfully; it started with a swift kick in the gut. About 70km and 350 turns into the 100km Claredon Cup criterium, I was questioning every bit of progress I thought I had made in the sport. I felt like a junior again, getting stretched and snapped in the cruel elastic of the peloton around every corner. The unrelenting sharp turns of the course meant that anyone outside the top 5 positions would be closing gaps multiple times a lap. And so it was, after some early attacking I would spend the next 90 minutes fighting for those top positions, mostly losing and then punching over 700w dozens and dozens of times to stay in the train. The day ended with a whimper, we missed the winning move and our sprinter Cory Williams was understandably exhausted when it came to the sprint for minor placings.
The next day at the Crystal Cup, I rolled to the start line with few expectations and sore legs. As soon as we rolled off though, I could feel that this was going to be a better day for the team and myself. The course was longer, less technical and more strength-based while the total distance was about a third shorter. After a chaotic 80 minutes of racing, the race was still wide open as a breakaway dangled tenuously off the front and the lap counter ticked down to 5 to go. I sensed a lull in the peloton as tired legs, frustration and a pinch of apathy meant no one wanted control of the race. With Cory looking good, I decided to take our small crew of 4 to the front and ride like we wanted to win.
And it worked. Eder, George and I rotated, gradually picking up speed and trusting each other to hold the pace and reel in the attackers. With a lap to go we had Cory in 4th wheel, the break in sight and I pulled off the front for the final time. Game on. As I gasped for air and parachuted through the field I also craned my neck to see the final battle for the win. I thought I saw a pair of electric blue gloves punch the air at the finish but I wasn’t sure. And then I heard it: “Cory Williams Wins for Elevate-KHS!!” We did it, just like that–almost out of nowhere. I rode a pleasant buzz of elation and satisfaction as I scrambled to the airport to make my flight to Beauce.
Coming up soon… watch for part 2 of this article all about racing Tour de Beauce.