Racing around hasn’t gotten Kelowna’s Jordan Cheyne where he’d like to be lately, so he’s returning home until the world slows down.
The 28-year-old professional cyclist hopes to be back at his Big White home today or Friday after North America’s pro cycling season was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When reached by phone on Wednesday, Cheyne and wife Emily were just driving into Nevada from California.
“It was almost like I was going way faster to catch up, and then I had to screech to a halt,” Cheyne said. “It’s jarring, but I think everybody in every walk of life is in a similar situation right now in terms of uncertainty. We’ll deal with it.”
He’s done a lot of that this year.
The second day Cheyne was on the bike during off-season training in Tucson, Arizona, he crashed.
The Dec. 2 fall left him with a punctured lung, broken wrist and severe rib damage. He needed three surgeries, and the support of Emily and his Elevate-Webiplex teammates, to get back in the saddle.
“It was the craziest thing that’s happened in my life,” he said. “It was like the perfect storm. I just hit the perfect sized crack, and the bike flew. The bike stopped in the crack, actually, and I flew.”
Cheyne said he had been fortunate in his decade-long pro cycling career to have never crashed. But he woke up to the reality of pain that didn’t end until early February, and even that is a minor miracle.
Because he was in Arizona — with good health insurance — he was exposed to the best of U.S. health care. He had a private room, compassionate doctors and access to cutting-edge surgery (he just didn’t look at the bills).
The doctors used titanium to repair his ribs. Without it, Cheyne said, he faced six months of uncertain recovery.
His insurance company wanted him back home in Canada, but because of his punctured lung, he wouldn’t fly.
“I angled pretty hard to stay put with the complications,” he said. “They weren’t happy about it, but I was going to stay put. My lungs are sort of my tools, so I’ve got to take care of them.”
He might have recovered even quicker had it not been for the complicated nature of his injuries.
Surgeons repaired damage to his hand and ribs, but had to readmit him when they realized, on his “final” visit, that he had a hemothorax in his chest. He was back on the table as doctors drove a tube through his chest wall to re-inflate his lung.
He was making slow progress, but one day fell and started coughing. He was also experiencing a racing heartbeat just sitting on the couch.
After 45 more minutes of C.A.T. scans and imaging, doctors discovered his titanium screws were just millimetres too deep, and were “gradually puncturing my lung over and over again.”
The third surgery was his last, thankfully, and he embarked on the long road to recovery. Cheyne was on the stationary bike for just five minutes in the mornings, and 10 minutes at night. It was all he could manage.
“I could barely support my own weight on the handle bars because of the rib damage and my hand was in a cast, too.”
But his body was anxious for a return to fighting shape.
Cheyne, who is also a high-performance coach after earning a kinesiology degree at UBCO, turned in an outstanding 2019 season. He won the Tour de White Rock, one of Western Canada’s preeminent events, and won his hometown Tour de Grand Blanc from Kelowna to Big White.
Cheyne was also fourth at the prestigious Redlands Bicycle Classic in California, and was part of the gruelling seven-stage, 477-mile Tour of Utah with its 37,880 feet of climbing.
His Elevate-KHS team, as it was known last season, helped team member James Piccoli finish second overall (Cheyne was 45th).
He also finished sixth at the Canadian championship, and finished 16th at Canada’s signature event, the Tour de Beauce in Quebec.
He headed to Arizona after the season filled with hope and confidence.
“It really took it out of me. The recovery from that was quite difficult. That was probably the lowest point was mid-January. The wind was totally out of my sails,” he said.
“Your body is just destroyed after three surgeries.”
The recovery we know about. But the happy ending is yet to be written with the novel coronavirus still out there. There’s talk of racing again in a couple of months, and there are challenges to be had, but Cheyne isn’t dwelling on the future.
“I’m not even thinking about that stuff right now, to be honest. It’s just so hard to.”
There is a silver lining. Cheyne is one of three finalists for the City of Kelowna’s male athlete of the year award.
If it can be held, the ceremony is set for April 29. Cheyne is up against golfer Cooper Humphreys and baseball player Trevor Brigden.
“Believe it or not, I’ve always looked at those awards and been like, ‘Oh, that would be really cool.’ I never even thought that cycling was on the radar that much,” Cheyne said. “It blew me away. I really hope that the ceremony goes on and I can make it to that. I started to look at it, and the people that have won it in the past, it’s a pretty illustrious list, and the people that have been nominated as well, of course. I’d be really pumped to win and I’m just honoured to be a part of it.”