Ever since Joey Rosskopf soloed to victory in Knoxville, Tennessee at the 2021 US Pro national championships, the 32-year-old embarked on a year quite unlike any other in his illustrious career.
From the birth of his son Miles in late July, to debuting the iconic jersey at Poitou-Charentes, contending with injury and misfortune at the Tour of Britain, suffering two broken elbows in 2022 and then bouncing back to a podium at the Tour of Hellas, before the kit’s final outing at the Tour de Suisse was curtailed by COVID, it has been quite the 12-month adventure.
We caught up with Rosskopf last week to talk about his season racing in the beautiful stars and stripes kit from Pactimo, atop the extraordinarily designed American flag Felt AR.
“It has brought an extra level of visibility and awareness at races which has its positives and negatives,” Rosskopf says of the jersey. “I can’t feel anything but appreciation for having a special outfit all year and draw eyes and extra expectations. That was great for the team and it’s an easy thing for fans to notice which has been super fun.”
The extra eyes on the national champion may not be something Rosskopf always enjoyed, but he was able to find plenty of encouragement from the pride and excitement those around him felt about the jersey.
“That has been really rewarding to see,” he explains. “Maybe my own pride is watered down by the extra eyes I have on me as it doesn’t fit my personality, but it’s so rare to win a race.”
As Robin Carpenter explained in our national championships preview, a special jersey for taking victory is something very tangible and easily explained to non-cycling fans. Rosskopf has had the same experience.
“Friends and family know I’m a bike racer but they might not see anything from me for a year or two so this jersey is an obvious reminder and justification to be proud of,” he explains.
Rosskopf jokes that “it doesn’t let you forget that at some point you did win a race. I think my family and friends have had a lot of fun to have the national champion title to explain what I’m doing which is kind of a foreign concept and that is incredibly rewarding.”
Unfortunately, Rosskopf will not line up to defend his title, but he has provided competitors of all ages with this advice for both the physical and mental side of nationals weekend.
“What I would say to any competitors this week, as long as you’re enjoying the sport and the process of training and competing, keep hoping and keep trying. If you like it, use my example. The first nationals I did I was 17 or 18 and probably the best I ever did was 7th or 8th in a junior road race, I don’t think I ever did any better in a junior or under-23 race and I thought those would be easier to win than a pro road or pro TT title so I did it for ten years with no success so it’s all possible.”
Since those early days, Rosskopf has notched two time-trial titles and one road gold, making him one of only four male American riders – the other three being Steve Hegg, Norman Alvis and Levi Leipheimer – to win both disciplines in the professional era.
This experience means that he can share some words of advice with the would-be future champions.
“To the new champions, be proud of it. Speaking from experience, don’t let the new pressure or expectation be anything but positive,” Rosskopf adds. “You’ve already done the result. People may look at you with higher expectations for the next year, but you’ve already done it so take that new pressure and if it’s positive, embrace it. You’ve got a nice jersey to show for it.”
We’ve certainly enjoyed seeing Joey in the USA kit this year.