As he makes a small adjustment on his race bike, Jos Chalmers says, half-to-himself, “Huh… I raced this thing in five countries last year.” Only 19 years old, with just four years of racing experience, Chalmers shows not only athletic talent, but also insight far beyond his age. A freshman with the 22-time national champion Marian University Knights Cycling team, Chalmers has high aspirations on and off the bike, and the drive and insight to achieve them.
Born in Britain, Chalmers and his family moved to Florida when he was 11. A high school state champion soccer player, he found a new passion at age 15: cycling. “My dad had an extra road bike around the house,” he said. “It was less stressful and easier than the task of going to practice for soccer. I liked it right away.” Chalmers traded in soccer balls for bicycles, and began racing. He clearly remembers his first local race, as a junior: “it sucked. I got, like, fifth out of six.”
But sticking with cycling, Chalmers quickly moved up the ranks. He found it became more and more rewarding, and his results reflected it. Within two years, he was riding for a regional development team. He went to junior road nationals at age 17. He won a stage of the Tour de l'Abitibi, a junior stage race in Canada. L’Abitibi is the largest junior race on this continent and many consider it the Tour de France of U-23 racing.
In 2012, just after graduating from high school, he was invited to travel to the Dominican Republic, Belgium, Canada, and France with the United States National Team, a huge honor for under-23 cyclists. “I got my butt kicked in Europe,” reflected Chalmers. “Everyone goes over there thinking you have great form, you’re not going to be embarrassed. But it’s way different [than racing here].” “The first day we get there, you find a local race. The pack is full of 200 guys who can all win, and you might be one of them, but your form in America doesn’t mean you end up being good over there. It’s as hard as a sixty minute race here, but for two-and-a-half-hours.” “There are guys who are 40 who can beat you in a sprint and drop you from the break. You have to prove yourself at every moment. You have to earn respect. There are professional development squads showing up every day.”
Chalmers returned from Europe just before beginning his freshman year at Marian. He says he came back feeling a little burned out, but starting with the team here helped re-energize him at the end of a long summer. Senior Jackie Kurth, a fellow Floridian, played a role in helping convince Chalmers to come to Marian. She raced with him as a junior and saw his potential as a young rider. “I knew Jos would be a great fit at Marian because of his drive and ambition- not only in cycling, but academics as well,” said Kurth.
As a Knight, Chalmers kicked off his collegiate cycling career on the velodrome, a new discipline for him: “I’d only ridden the track once before, but it was cool to start in this environment.” At USA Cycling’s Collegiate Track National Championships in Frisco, TX in September, he was part of the winning men’s team pursuit squad and then stood on the top step of the podium with the team as the champion DI school. “It was good to get on the track and not have to focus on race tactics, just have fun,” Chalmers notes.
Now, in his second semester of school and first full collegiate road season, Chalmers is excited by the dynamic of collegiate racing. “It’s not like trade teams or the national team, where bike racing can be the only connection. We’re all here to go to school, connected by something other than bike racing. It brings everyone together.”
Looking beyond Collegiate Road Nationals in May, where he was a part of the National Championship TTT squad, Chalmers is planning to race a full season, and go back to Europe eventually. He’s targeting U23 nationals this year and hopes to earn the Best Young Rider jersey at some domestic stage races. He also plans to continue racing the track.
When reflecting on the possible conflict between full-time professional cycling and school, Chlamers recognizes the value of his education, and realizes he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. “I don’t know if I’m ready for a professional contract, but I would like to have the option and consider it at that time.”
"Jos came to Marian with and intent to continue with cycling while being a focused and full time student,” said Marian Cycling head coach Dean Peterson. “Although I could highlight a number of riders who have come through our program in the past years, I would highlight graduates Sinead Miller and Rob Bush who have been excellent examples of this. Jos reminds me of this type of student-athlete: pursuing his cycling career, but also earning a degree that he knows he will use in the future.” “This is the model we support," said Peterson.
Chalmers plans to major in marketing, and hopes to someday run a development program for junior and U23 cyclists. “It all depends on the course I take after graduation.” For now, though, Chalmers is living the collegiate cycling dream and working hard to achieve the balance of training, travel, school, and fun – as well as handling the emotional ups and downs which inevitably happen in the sport of cycling. “The camaraderie that comes out of [collegiate racing] is better than maybe anything else I’ve been in.”