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Sept 3, 2015 – Joey Rosskopf is a member of the new generation of American racers, currently competing in his first grand tour, the Vuelta a España. This is also his first season at the UCI WorldTour level, as a member of BMC Racing, but he’s no rookie, having been on three previous teams in lower divisions. We posed 10 questions to Joey to get to know him a little better.
John Wilcockson/Darrell Parks
1. Wilcockson: Your home page on Facebook and Twitter has a photo of a dog. If this is your dog, what is his name and breed, and what are your favorite moments with him?
Rosskopf: His name is Bear, he’s six years old, and he is my pup. Although this year he sure has spent a lot of time with my parents since I’ve been home for all of 23 days since January 1. As for the breed…he came from a rescued, pregnant mamma who appeared to be a black lab. Baby-daddy: unknown. My favorite moments are when I see him content to just lie in the front yard, soak in the sun, and maybe give a little under-his-breath bark at a passerby. We don’t have a fence, but he doesn’t feel the need to wander off. He’s got it all figured out.
2. Wilcockson: We know you took up cycling in your mid-teens because your dad is a masters racer, but when did you first see a bike race? And did you ever watch your home state’s Tour de Georgia. If so, was that an influence on your choice of sports?
Rosskopf: One of the first races I remember watching took place in Decatur, Georgia, about a mile from my parents’ house. My dad was racing, and I remember asking my mom why all the bike racers stood up and rocked their bikes so much right before the finish line! I did catch a couple stages of Tour de Georgia in person, but by then I had already started to get into racing a little bit. I’d say that watching my dad race when I was even younger was more of an influence than the Tour de Georgia.
3. Wilcockson: You’ve had an eclectic career as a full-time bike racer. It’s your 26th birthday this weekend, and in six seasons you’ve been on four different teams—Mountain Khakis, Team Type 1, Hincapie Development and now BMC Racing. What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned from this experience?
Rosskopf: Not a lot of job stability, huh? Maybe one day I’ll get good enough to sign a multi-year contract. I’ve picked up little things everywhere along the way. They’re hard to pinpoint.
4. Wilcockson: This is your first time doing a three-week race. It’s said that recovery is one of the keys to riding a strong grand tour, so how much sleep are you getting each night at the Vuelta, and what other “recovery” methods are you using?
Rosskopf: I can usually manage nine hours of sleep each night. Another thing I’ve been encouraged to do is to really call it off near the end of certain stages when I’ve either finished the job or just don’t have the legs. The advice from staff and teammates sounds like: “Don’t be afraid to use the last gruppetto when you need it.” I guess that’s to conserve as much energy as possible.
What with the late starts, the time after the stages is pretty limited to massage, eat, sleep. I’ve got an easy-to-read sci-fi/crime novel around that I sometimes pick up. I can usually make it through about three pages at a time before falling asleep—and that has nothing to do with the quality of the book!
5. Wilcockson: If you’re listening to music there, what do you favor?
Rosskopf: I like using the TuneIn Radio app to listen to “92.3 Real Country, Arcade-Athens-Gainesville.” Gives me a taste of home when I’m away.
6. Wilcockson: At over 6-foot-1 you’re one of the taller riders at BMC, which lists you as weighing 167 pounds. To tackle the big mountain stages in Spain, are you finding you need to lose some weight, and how are you doing that?
Rosskopf: Well I think it’s probably too late to lose weight when I’m mid-race! Yes, I need to climb better, but I don’t know what I need to do to best achieve that. Could be losing weight, could be just training harder and getting stronger in general.
7. Wilcockson: You have helped your BMC team win two team time trials this year— nice work! What’s the most difficult thing doing a TTT with the world TTT champions?
Rosskopf: I love doing TTTs with such a dialed team! The most challenging thing about riding TTTs with such experienced guys is making sure I pick up on all the fine details that is such common knowledge to some of these guys that they might forget to explicitly mention it in a pre-race meeting. But for the most part it hasn’t been too difficult to integrate. The staff are so good at constructing a plan for each TTT that it seems like almost any rider could plop into a productive role as long as they can follow directions. That is a big part of what makes BMC so successful in the event.
8. Wilcockson: You’ve had a very busy schedule in your first WorldTour season—about 60 race days so far and longer races than before. Has this schedule been too much, too little, or just about right for you?
Rosskopf: I don’t have much to compare it to since I’ve never done a full season in the WorldTour before, but it has felt just about right. A good balance of pushing myself as well being allowed little breaks once in a while to stay healthy.
9. Wilcockson: Before joining BMC, you had some impressive results—including battling with Cadel Evans on a mountain stage of last year’s Tour of Utah. This year, you are in a learning phase, helping others; has it been difficult to change your focus and limit your ambitions?
Rosskopf: I wouldn’t say I’ve had to limit my ambitions at all because this year I haven’t really been in a situation where I thought, “Man, I could have won that race if I didn’t have to work for so and so.” I want to help others on the team, because, for the time being, I think that’s where I can be most productive. I did think that would be a semi-easy role to transition into, but turns out there is also a lot to learn about how exactly I can be of the most service to the team’s efforts.
10. Wilcockson: With about half the Vuelta in your legs, what are the most important things you’ve learned about riding a grand tour?
Rosskopf: Save your energy! If you’re not in a position to get a result or to further participate in an “assist” just sit up! Save it for another day and avoid potential crashes.
Wilcockson: Thanks for your time, Joey. Have a healthy rest of the race!