Name: James Whelan
Occupation: Supervisor, Health Plan Enrollment and Premium Billing, Martins Point Health Care
Bikes: Ritte Ace road, Cannondale CAAD 5 Saeco road, Framed Minnesota 3.0 fat bike, Specialized Crux E5 cx/gravel… and I’ve a list of dream bikes I want, longer than I care to think about!
Q: When and how did you discover cycling?
A: I, like most others started riding a bike at a young age, though with my father and uncle avid cyclists I soon followed suit, falling in love with two wheels. Cycling became my no.1 sport pretty early, I got my first road bike when i was 10 or 11, an old 10 speed Raleigh Flyer and a Banesto kit so I could match my hero Miguel Indurain. I started racing by 12, and won the first race I entered, and though there were only a handful of kids, I was hooked. I’ve never looked back since!
Q: Has your inspiration to ride changed since then, and what is it now?
A: Yes, quite a bit! From my early days of racing u12 until my early 20’s, racing and winning were my only motivators to get out and ride. I loved it, but over time it had taken over my life, becoming a chore. I was burnt out from the strict training and diet plans, missing out on trips with friends, nights out etc. to focus on racing seriously. I was done, I stopped riding altogether, though remaining working in the industry I loved. Moving to Maine from Ireland in 2015 was a great reset, I found racing again and going fast to be enjoyable, but in New England the majority of races are crits, not too exciting! So I tried Raspututsa and other gravel events and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!! Though I was nowhere near the winners, I absolutely loved it. Myself and my buddies started creating more adventurous rides and I realized I find more joy out of the gravel rides than riding in a loop, especially considering where I live, the abundance of gravel roads! I want to keep doing all types of riding but my energy is going all toward gravel.
Q: How would you define your style of gravel riding?
A: I don’t know if i have a particular style, I’ve been riding everything from gravel roads, Cat IV roads in Vermont to full on singletrack and willing to try it all out on my Crux. Nothing more fun than finding a new trail or singletrack you can handle on the gravel tyres. It’s an awesome feeling to blast down a trail and see mountain bikers looking at you like you’re crazy for attempting it. I’m fortunate to have a group of friends here willing to do the same, and push me to do more!
Q: Describe an ideal day on the bike.
A: My ideal day is a long day out exploring new routes, going further than planned, having to stop at gas stations or stores in the middle of nowhere to refuel. They usually create the best stories and memories for after! It doesn’t have to be a race, or setting out for Strava KOMs etc., just a fun day on the bike with friends.
Q: What are some notable trips you’ve done to enjoy cycling?
A: There have been quite a few over the years! In my racing days, racing the 3 day Rás Connachta for the Irish Team, my first time away racing for a weekend without my Dad around as my personal soigneur. I had lots of mechanical issues resulting in multiple wheel changes, then a bike change, and fighting to get back to the peloton, I learned as a young Junior I could keep up with strong senior riders it gave me the push that I might just have what it takes. Then later in the year going on the seven day Junior Tour, taking on the best around the world. It was an amazing feeling, treated like pro’s, living out of a suitcase and team car. I was in my element (even beat Geraint Thomas in the GC that year! lol).
Most recently would be a trip to Vermont to ride the gravel and Cat IV roads with friends, no racing, timing chips or fights for yellow, just lots of rolling miles exploring with friends! I have been fortunate to have had the chance to travel through racing, but these trips, with no stress, just for fun are hard to beat!
Q: You’re a Barnstormer Chapter Leader. What does that entail, and is there anything you hope to help other riders find within the club?
A: I feel I’m an ambassador for the great cycling routes and organized rides available here in Maine. I feel that means I have the opportunity to show folks new routes, to push themselves to try trails and adventures outside what they normally do. Cycling becomes more fun when you turn off the paved roads of the well worn cycling routes and onto the less travelled. I hope to be able to bring more along with me on those less travelled routes.
Q: Everyone who rides has something unique to offer. Do you know what you might offer, in that regard?
A: I think I’m fortunate to have had a great racing past at a young age, learning the ropes of road and track cycling, but I also learned there’s more to cycling than the fancy bike and equipment, and winning at a younger age too. I’ve now got to a point where it’s ok not to be the best, or fastest but to just really love what your doing, however fast or slow. With this I feel I’ll be able to offer riders the chance to go on some amazing spins without the pressure of feeling they need to be as good as another, just to enjoy it.
Q: What role does cycling play in your current lifestyle?
A: It’s a huge part. Cycling for me has always been a way to clear my head. If I’m feeling stressed or overloaded in work or life, being able to get out on the bike, whether it’s a long adventure ride or just an hour on the road, it does wonders for you, you never regret going for a spin! Cycling has also been my way to make new friends here in the States, outside of work or family, moving to the US my bike gave me the opportunity to get to know some amazing people and to create friendships over our mutual love of 2 wheels.