If you had asked Jimmy Whelan what he expected to be doing three years ago, chances are it wouldn’t be cycling.
The 21-year-old Australian began riding just two years ago, after a running injury forced him to trade his sneakers for cycling shoes. When Whelan placed second in his U23 National Road Championships just 16 months later, it earned him a spot on the Drapac EF p/b Cannondale Holistic Development Team.
For Jimmy, there were a lot of obvious benefits to signing with Drapac EF. Not only was it one of the few teams in Australia with a direct link to a UCI WorldTour team, but it was also one of the only teams that would encourage him to continue studying. The holistic development team offers scholarships to talented cyclists who balance racing with educational and employment opportunities.
“It was important to me to find a team that would support my endeavors off the bike,” Jimmy says. “To have a team that not only supported but encouraged academic pursuits alongside athletic ones was really appealing.”
Jimmy is currently studying urban and regional planning at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. “Put simply, it’s the study of the use and regulation of land and how that comes together in the public and private sector,” he explains. “It’s a passion of mine, and I realized that going through school I was keen on getting into the field.”
But for now, Jimmy is focused on racing—and taking time to enjoy the sport of cycling. Compared to running, he says, the cycling environment feels a lot bigger. “There’s more worldwide interest, and with that, you have can bigger goals, more realistic goals and a bigger support network.”
It’s also given Jimmy the chance to see more of the world. “With cycling you can travel all over the world and meet some really interesting people,” he explains. “For me, that’s probably the biggest appeal. You can find like-minded people to share this journey with—the travel, the competition, the goals. It’s a pretty cool lifestyle, and it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
He’ll get the chance to do a lot more of that now that he’s joined the #PinkArgyle squad as part of EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale. Jimmy will become a stagiaire for the team—a pro cycling trainee—before his three-year WorldTour contract begins at the start of 2019.
And Jimmy is excited for the opportunities to come. “I’m still very new to the sport. We’ll have to find out where my real strengths are and how I’ll be most useful to the team.” He continues, “When you put like-minded people together, you can achieve really great things.”