Joey Rosskopf chooses new challenge over home comforts

2023 brings a fresh start for the former US champion as he joins the upstart Q36.5 Cycling.

Photo: Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team

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The 2023 season brings a fresh start for experienced former U.S. national road race champion Joey Rosskopf, one of 24 riders on board the new Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team.

“It’s super motivating,” he said. “Everyone is taking a little bit of a leap to start a new project.” On paper, there is no big name who stands out on the UCI ProTeam, though the likes of experienced WorldTour alum Gianluca Brambilla and Jack Bauer catch the eye.

Rosskopf, who joined from Human Powered Health, attests to an equal feel among the riders: no big egos or expected whopping salaries.

Although there is a small crossover from team general manager Doug Ryder’s days at the helm of Team Qhubeka, building the team meant bringing tens of staff together at short notice last summer.

“It came about kind of late, it was definitely end of September by the time I had enough info to feel like I was making a reasonable decision,” the Decatur, Georgia native said. “Outweighing the risk and reward of a new team not even existing in the worst case.”

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“But I’m just chasing performance. I feel like I only have a few years left in cycling and I want to put myself in whatever environment available to me that has the most resources, that high-performance atmosphere, and big plans. This felt like a step up for me.”

Being backed by Italian apparel maker Q36.5 means minute control over clothing. “They want you to find something wrong with it, then maybe they can go do a run of shorts or jerseys that fit you better or give more comfort,” Rosskopf said. The company’s R&D focus has trickled down. “The team is just a continuation of that.”

Their January training camp in southern Spain was a blur of performance staff meets, sponsor sessions – collaborators like Scott, SRAM, Mercedes, and Breitling catch the eye – and bike fitting, in between training, getting to know new teammates.

Rosskopf had just come off a meeting with CORE, who are supplying body temperature sensors in a bid for improvement.

He likes the explorative approach being taken: “The way that they want to track data, the sustainability mission the whole team is taking on, they’ve asked for our input. Quit leaving every hotel with 10 trash bags of crap piled up. It’s a constant brainstorm of not being afraid to change and improve.”

The former BMC team racer experienced a checkered 2022 season, breaking his elbow in his first race of the year.

He came back to racing in late April, then got COVID-19 at the Tour de Suisse six weeks later and had to restart again. “I felt like I showed myself I could get back to a good competitive level every time, but it was a fair amount of setbacks,” he said.

At least Rosskopf could enjoy competing in the stars and stripes jersey for the majority of the season, following his 2021 US nationals road race win in Knoxville. “It’s super fun to wear it. Everyone in the world recognizes the American flag. The attention can be a little awkward at times, but that was something really cool that came out of riding for Rally,” he said.

Rosskopf enjoyed his two years with the team, now known as Human Powered Health, and says he had the option of staying there for 2023.

“I feel like it would have been the easy way out in the scheme of my life. It made a lot of sense to stay there with people I’m closer friends with. A super comfortable, total American environment,” he said.

“Re-signing there would have almost been like a step further into retirement. I don’t know why, but I already felt like I’d taken another step toward it in the last few years. I needed to snap myself out of it and recommit to the performance side of things for as long as I’m going to stay in the sport.”

To be fulfilled, Rosskopf wants pressure, to help him buckle down and get the most from himself. The strong all-rounder is set to offer solid support to the likes of climbers Mark Donovan, Damien Howson, and Brambilla, and sprinters Matteo Moschetti and Szymon Sajnok.

The thoughtful 33-year-old has come a long way from his adolescent days of skateboarding and getting $2 McDonald’s meals.

During his career, he has raced all three grand tours, finished second on a Vuelta a España stage, taken two U.S. time trial titles and won pro races in Rwanda and France.

It’s not a question of unfinished business for him. “Just [of pursuing] personal satisfaction with how the races go, on average, at least,” he says. “I think I can be generally better than I have been in the last couple of years.”

An American in France

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