From Middle Distance Runner to Pro Tour Contract in <2 Years [Podcast with James Whelan]

  • By: Cameron Nicholls
  • Jun 6, 2018
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This time two years ago, James (Jimmy) Whelan was travelling overseas in Europe with a close buddy to experience life as a free young man. This extended holiday came post a debilitating Achilles injury – which occurred in March 2016 – and became the clincher to altering Jimmy’s direction away from his aspirations of becoming an Olympic middle-distance runner. Jimmy was also studying a Bachelor of Urban & Regional Planning at RMIT University and had planned to settle back into normal/non-professional athlete life in Melbourne after his 4-month travel stint.

However, with a plan to keep reasonably fit, he started riding. He got into it. In September 2016 in purchased a 3-race pass at Hawthorn Cycling Club criteriums. Now, 21 months later as he’s just signed a 3-year contract with world tour team EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale.

Listen to the podcast:


Watch the video:

2:50 minutes: Jimmy walks us through the offer, including when he officially signed and the process from his massive Tour of Flanders win, until signature.

8:00 minutes: Jimmy had multiple offers on the table. He talks through his dealings with his agent and what lead to the final outcome.

9:33 minutes: Jimmy describes the feeling when he received the contract over email at 4:30 am in the morning, roughly 3 weeks ago.

11:00 mins: It was just over two years ago, and Jimmy was aspiring to be an Olympic runner. He outlines what type of runner he was and the goals and aspirations he had at that point in time.

James running at school
Jimmy was originally aiming to be an Olympic runner before his injury in 2016. This shot was taken at an APS school event where Jimmy was representing his school, Xavier College.

13:45 minutes: Jimmy had built up a physiological condition as a runner; having established a high anaerobic threshold. He pinpoints the carryover benefits he’s taken from running into cycling.

16:20 minutes: The injury Jimmy obtained from running was an Achilles injury. He talks through that moment in his life and why it halted his running goals.

20:10 minutes: After Jimmy got back from overseas he decided to pick up the bike for fitness reasons. He outlines the rapid transformation into a racing cyclist.

23:00 minutes: As Jimmy was new to bike racing, he talks about learning the ropes at the local criteriums, including bunch and bike handling skills.

24:55 minutes: Jimmy’s first race at an NRS level was less than 12 months ago. It was a guest appearance for Van D’am Racing. He talks about how he got a gig there.

26:25 minutes: Given the rapid pathway to success Jimmy is posed the question – what is your method to success? This section includes his win a Tour of Flanders.

James Whelan's win at the Tour of Flanders
If it wasn’t for Jimmy being proactive, this result wouldn’t have occurred, and no doubt the pro contract that came with it. Thanks to Cycling Tips for the shot.

33:45 minutes: With such incredible acceleration through the ranks, it’s clear that Jimmy is a unique individual. He describes what drives his ambitions in the sport.

35:55 minutes: We all love numbers. Jimmy is asked about is raw power numbers including his upside given he’s only been riding a bike for 18 months.

44:15 minutes: Jimmy talks high-level about next year. What the racing could look like and his emotions towards joining in the pro peloton.

48:15 minutes: We wrap up the discussion with Jimmy’s plans for the remainder of the year.

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