A year ago this week, Joey Rosskopf was competing at the Redlands Bicycle Classic after coming off a Southern California training camp with Hincapie Racing. Fast forward 12 months from the Redlands victory, and Rosskopf is lining up this week at Vuelta al Pais Vasco, his first WorldTour race, to help support team leader Tejay van Garderen.
“We had just finished an awesome training camp,” Rosskopf recalled of last year's camp to Cyclingnews earlier this week. “We stayed in West Lake Village before Redlands, training on the ridge between West Lake Village and Malibu, just doing a bunch of climbing out there. That was really nice. That was a nice time of year for us. Everyone came into Redlands really fit after that.”
Rosskopf eventually won the National Racing Calendar event, stealing the win from Travis McCabe (Team SmartStop) in the final kilometres of the final day. He went on to impressive rides at the Tour of Utah and Tour of California, then signed with BMC Racing in the offseason.
This year, after starting in Italy and France, then making a swing through Belgium that included starts at Three Days of West Flanders, Nokere Koerse, Handzame Classic and Three Days of De Panne, Rosskopf has 18 race days in his legs, compared with just a couple last year at this time. The increased workload is just one of the changes the 25-year-old from Georgia had to get used to.
“The Belgian races were a pretty big step for me,” Rosskopf said. “The first race I did in Belgium was pretty terrible. It was the Three Days of West Flanders. And then after that, I mean I didn’t get any results or anything, but they got easier and more manageable and I could actually be in the right place at the right time and pop out into the wind when I needed to and not feel like I was about to crash as often - not feeling like I was wasting as much energy constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes.
“Just in the two or three weeks that I was there I got a lot more comfortable in those races,” Rosskopf said. “The first one was kind of miserable, but then when I actually started to finish a race and be able to smile and have kind of enjoyed the race, then that’s when I figured I was learning a little bit more and doing more things right -- they just got more enjoyable.”
BMC team director Jackson Stewart said he’s been impressed by Rosskopf’s quick adaptation to racing in the sport’s top division. Rosskopf was a factor in the team from his very first race.
“So far I’ve done two or three races with him, and he does the job,” Stewart said. “It’s actually a little more impressive than I expected, because he’s definitely got the level to ride at the pro level, and then he kind of stepped in as a good teammate really quick and figured out what the guys expected of him really quick, so that was good to see.”
Pais Vasco is Rosskopf’s first race with van Garderen, who said his new teammate reminds of him of another successful BMC rider.
“To be honest with you, he's like a chip off the old block,” van Garderen said. “He's super professional, very mature, and he's got tons of power.”
Rosskopf also came to the WorldTour pre-packaged to fit in and do the work, something teammates like van Garderen have taken notice of.
“A lot of times with neo pros you really have to teach them, you know, show them the way and show them the ropes,” van Garderen said. “But he seems to not really need a whole lot of guidance. He catches on really quick, and he's already really professional. He's just an easy-going, relaxed guy, and just a fun guy to have at the dinner table. It's always nice to have a couple more Americans on the team.”
After Pais Vasco, Rosskopf will compete in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Tour of Yorkshire and then his first Tour of California, where Rosskopf is hoping to perform well.
“I want to make it a real goal for me,” Rosskopf said of the California race. “I’d really like to go into California - not with this mindset of just trying to get the experience and do some random teamwork - I want to be pretty good there.”