Whelan’s Season Debut in Australia

How the Aussie Prepared for the Santos Festival of Cycling

EF-Education-Nippo cheered on James Whelan throughout this year’s exciting edition of the Santos Fesitival of Cycling. The Aussie pro, otherwise known as Jimmy or Wheels, made his debut at the Tour Down Under (now replaced by Santos Fesitival of Cycling due to COVID restrictions) back in 2019. “It was so special to race in front of my family at my first WorldTour race. It’s a week I’ll never forget,” said Whelan.


The 24-year-old went back to his second big race in Australia with more experience under his belt. His special fondness for the event can be attributed to his Aussie roots and the fact that he grew up watching it as an awestruck kid. “Now to be one of the riders feels pretty amazing,” said Whelan. 


The runner-turned-cyclist has many talents and had been steadily refining them throughout the offseason. If you watched the Giro at all last year — you might have seen his breakaway prowess and his “team first” mentality. And at his first Tour Down Under, the then neo-pro impressed the Aussie crowd with those same skills. In stage 3, he managed to lead an early breakaway of seven riders before supporting his teammate Alberto Bettiol in the closing stages of the race. Even then, we knew he was a serious competitor (watch video).


This time around was different for a couple of reasons other than the name change. Travel restrictions would prevent teams from arriving from abroad, so this year it’s an entirely domestic event. That means Whelan represented the Australia National Team jersey instead of his usual pink. “It’s always special feeling wearing the Aussie colors on home turf,” said Whelan.


We caught up with Jimmy and chatted with him on his training schedule before the race:


When did you find out you were selected to represent Australia at the TDU?


I found out just before Christmas in December. It was almost like an early Christmas present!


How did you modify or adjust your training when you found out you would start racing as early as January?


I’ve managed my training nicely alongside my coach. We incorporated a bit more intensity and specifics to tune me up nicely for the racing. I have still maintained focus on the basic base work despite the lead up the TDU, such as gym and zone 3 work, in preparation for the upcoming European races. 


Do you make any changes to your nutrition or sleep schedule whenever you prepare for a race like this?


Nutrition and sleep are essential to any bike race. In this case, it’s important for me to focus on good healthy eating and a good sleeping routine to ensure I am absorbing all the hard work from my training. In fact, the hard training is almost useless without good sleep and good food. My WHOOP (join Jimmy and team here) enables me to keep track of my sleep schedule, I try to achieve 9 hours per night. It’s particularly important to find a good sleep routine, hygiene, and eating habits quickly after the off season. The off season is great to switch off from being a high performing athlete but once we start training again you want to find some good momentum with training leading into the season so that means good sleep and good food is essential. 


What’s your favorite part about riding in Australia?


Riding with my mates is probably my favourite part. It is always great to hear what they have been up to during the year and to talk nonsense like old times. The roads are amazing as well, especially in the sunshine of the Australian summer. 


You raced at the TDU as a neo-pro. What was that experience like?


The TDU was my first WorldTour stage race. It was an eye-opening experience for me. It was incredible to see first hand the power of the WorldTour peloton. 


Any chance of a breakaway like you had in Stage 3 in 2018 at the TDU?


Quite possible. The week will favor a breakaway so I will be looking to get into a few aggressive moves. The peloton will not be as organised compared to previous years so perhaps a few breakaways may go to line and even decide the general classification battle before Willunga hill.