Sad sendoff for DEVO mainstays
Co-founder Chad Cheeney and wife bound for Bend, Ore.
By John Peel Herald staff writer
Article Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 11:50pm
JENNAYE DERGE/Durango Herald
DEVO coach Chad Cheeney gathers a group of friends for a bicycle ride to Ska Brewing Co. on Thursday evening for a goodbye party. Cheeney and his wife, Annie, are headed to Bend, Ore., where Annie will study counseling.
For nearly the last decade, Chad Cheeney has arguably been the heart of what has become an impressive Durango success story.
So reaction to the news that he and his wife, Annie, are leaving the area has understandably been one of sadness.
Along with co-founder Sarah Tescher, Cheeney has nursed DEVO – a junior development cycling organization – from a humble beginning to a program that now has 40-plus coaches and 700 registrants a year. Chad and Annie are heading for Bend, Ore., where he will seek coaching and other opportunities, and Annie, also a DEVO mainstay as coach and former director, will pursue a master’s degree in counseling.
Tescher recalled this week her reaction to the news during a lunch with Cheeney.
“What are you talking about?” she said to him. “We just made it over the hump (as a stable nonprofit); 2014 is the year we’re going to thrive.”
The community gave the Cheeneys a heartfelt going away party Thursday night at Ska Brewing Co. Characteristically, the party began with a fun group bike ride from the Durango Community Recreation Center along the Animas River Trail to Ska.
Fortunately for Cheeney fans, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The couple plan to return to Durango in three years after Annie Cheeney completes her master’s program though Oregon State University.
“I can’t wait to come back,” Chad Cheeney said. “It’s definitely a little paradise here.”
Nearly 30 coaches, youth cyclists and former cyclists gathered at the rec center Thursday at dusk. Quickly, a game of bike balancing broke out, which matched the No. 1 lesson Chad Cheeney has always tried to instill: Cycling is fun.
“He brings a lot of enthusiasm to cycling,” said Lucas LeMaire, a DEVO coach since 2009. “He just loves cycling so much. … Kids love him so much because he’s so good around kids.”
Chad Cheeney moved here in 1998 to attend Fort Lewis College. In the last 15 years, the fun-loving Cheeney has become a pillar of the Durango cycling scene. He has coached with DEVO, Fort Lewis College, Durango Mountain Bike Camp and Durango Parks and Recreation. He has raced. He has worked as an announcer. He has built trails with Trails 2000. Annie Cheeney was also a coach since DEVO’s inception.
He wants to assure locals that DEVO is in good hands. After years of toil and sweat, he’s certain a good team of instructors is ready to fill his shoes.
“I don’t feel nervous or scared that I’m losing my baby,” he said. “I feel totally confident DEVO will go on being what it is.”
The program has been around long enough – about eight years – that former “middle school rugrats” are now college-aged DEVO coaches. “And it’s cool to see,” Chad Cheeney said.
Tescher said she and Cheeney never envisioned the program’s success and its breadth – it now works with ages 2 to 25 from push-bike to race teams.
“The coaches and the people with DEVO are so passionate,” she said. “They just kind of fed on Chad’s passion.”
Nathan Cavalca, a sophomore from Brazil, races for the FLC team and joined the ride to Ska to salute his departing coach. He said Chad Cheeney is full of knowledge to help riders improve skills and race performance. But the lighter side comes through.
“He always tries to make riding and training fun,” Cavalca said. “What matters is having fun. The rest will come eventually.”
DEVO recently hired Amy Haggart as its executive director, leaving Tescher available to do more work with coaches and to coach. Tescher said that Cheeney will continue as a DEVO board member: “We’ll be Skyping him into meetings.”
Chad Cheeney, a Bend native, said that it’s similar to Durango as far as outdoors opportunities, although he did give a nod to Durango for having more technical trails. While he doesn’t have an exact plan for his next three years, he knows he wants to broaden his coaching skills by working with coaches there and experiencing other techniques.
The Cheeneys plan to leave Durango on Jan. 31. They give every indication they’ll return.
“Three years and counting,” Cheeney said.