CyclingPub Feature: Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf
Dec 15 2016 01:53 pm CET

CyclingPub Feature: Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf

Speaking to CyclingPub at BMC Racing Team's media day in Denia, Spain, Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf proved that the team's American core is still as strong as ever.

The two arrive to the room together and the roles soon become clear. Bookwalter (32) is the easy talker, his experience allowing him to take charge of the situation. Having joined the team in 2008, he has seen BMC grow to what it has become. During this time, he took part in eight grand tours and is as such an extremely valuable domestique for his teammates.

Rosskopf is a little quieter than his teammate. The 27-year-old from Georgia impressed by winning the 2016 Tour du Limousin and appears to be at a point in his career where he is trying to figure out what he is capable of.

Brent, you've had the habit of riding one grand tour each year for the last six years. Do you already know what it's going to be this year?
B: Two in my first year! I don't know, no. That's the hot topic right now. I have a meeting with our directors and management tomorrow so I'll get a roadmap of what they envision then. I don't know what to expect. Obviously a lot depends on where the leaders go. The team has made it pretty clear that Richie [Porte] is the guy for the Tour. Historically I've stayed with Tejay [Van Garderen] a lot so that could mean something different for me. The Giro potentially.

It's nice to do one a year. It's good. Every year I learn something else about myself and get another layer of debt.
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Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf (BMC Racing Team Training Camp, Spain 2016)
Photos by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

Does one of the grand tours have your preference?
B: They all have their pro's and cons, for sure. I always wanted to do the Tour and then every time I get into the Tour I tell my friends and family not to ever let me do it again. That's how I got here last year. I told my wife to 'draft up the contract, I'll sign it. I promise to never do the Tour again!' It's so tough. But then you get around to that time of the year and the buzz and the hype start happening and you want to be back there because it's the most prominent, especially for an American rider. It means more to the cycling public and the general public in America.

But I love the Giro. I think it's cool timing. It's early in the year and everyone is motivated and fresh and inspired. The Italian public are really unique and kind of charming. Their courses are magnificent there. The Vuelta is nice as the climate is really good at the end of the year. I live in Spain for a lot of the year so that's as home as I can get for a grand tour.

Joey, you won the Tour du Limousin this year. Does that inspire you for more this season?
J: That was super exciting for me. It gave me an extra step in confidence. Not so much the first day as there was a lot of luck that played into that, just being in the right place. But figuring out how to defend it and back up the work of teammates for the whole four days... I felt really good after, being able to do that. It's not really a position I had been in, not since racing in America basically, for the last few years.

It gives you confidence then?
J: Yes. It took a lot of figuring out, a lot of focus. I didn't want to let anyone down and I didn't have any experience on this team in that position. So it was really something new for me to figure out. A pretty cool experience.

You rode the Giro as well for the first time this year and the Vuelta in 2015. Any plans for the Tour in the next few years?
J: The Tour is doubtful.
B: Says Joey.
J: There's so many guys that want to do the Tour and I don't really care too much. I did the Giro last year, I loved it. That was one of my favorite races all year. I would like to go back there.

You think he can make it then, Brent?
B: Yeah definitely. In another year or two, whether he likes it or not the team will need and want him there. I like having Joey in any race I do and I think a lot of the other guys on the team feel the same. A good personality and a good rider skill set. He's getting more confidence and experience. I think they'll need him there one of these years.
J: We'll see.

What do you think of the current situation of US cycling and do you think that the American teams do enough to promote young American riders?
B: I think it's good. There are a lot of opportunities for young Americans such as USA Cycling and the development program they have. They're sending a great team for juniors over to Belgium now, or to Holland every year. They're coming out light years ahead of where I was as a junior, so that bodes really well. When you look at the U23's that the USA has, they're the best in the world. All the best U23 races in the world, they're in the front and then jump into the pro races and smacking us around too. So the young guys are really promising and I think that the US is at a weird point trying to find its place with balancing the high level of professional international caliber races while still cultivating a domestic scene and a development scene. It's a tricky solution. Obviously for us it's great to have California as a WorldTour race, getting to race against all the best guys in the world. But for a team like Joey's old team, Hincapie, it likely means that they can't even get into the race.

J: It depends if stepping up to the WorldTour level like that excludes the smaller, younger teams from getting exposure. Which it doesn't sound like it will this year but I'm not sure how it's going to work with the new WorldTour races on the calendar. At the World's this year, the juniors were first and third in the time trial. There's a huge future in American cycling.

And the American public? Have they embraced the sport as well?
B: Not quite like over here, like going to Belgium... But I think it's improved since ten years ago in my first years as a pro, in a lot of ways. There's an improved understanding and respect and a new level of excitement. We've seen races like the race in Colorado and the race in Utah, the fans on the side of the road and people's commitment to those races and their passion for them have definitely grown over the years, with the exception of not having Colorado last year but hopefully they'll pick that back up this year.

Brent, you've already been here at BMC for so many years but what is it that keeps you here?
B: It's good livin'. I came to this team under unique circumstances. I was unsure of my career coming off a big injury and the team was just starting out. It was a great fit with us both, setting out down a new path. It's been a rewarding relationship for both of us I think, to grow together. Largely what kept me coming back is the growth pattern and the progression that the team and I have both had and shared together. And then each year it's built upon itself. The longer I'm here the less I can imagine going somewhere else. We have the best equipment in the world, the best support, our calendar is awesome. A good group of guys and it still has a somewhat American component, it's an English speaking team which is good for me.

Any views on the team's new signings?
B: I think they're exciting. It's a good number I think. Having a few new guys is enough to inject a little bit of a freshness into the team. Some new perspectives coming from the different teams but it's not so much that it's a total overhaul having to learn how to work with each other again. We did that, more so in some of the past years, and that can be challenging. But I think we have a nice balance of youth and experience, coming out of the new guys.

Joey, which of your teammates do you most like to work with?
J: There's no one on the team that I don't get along with. It's a group of easy-going guys for the most part. I like showing up to a race and just getting put in a room with someone that I haven't seen for a couple or months because our schedules haven't overlapped for whatever reason. That's always a cool experience, getting put in a situation with someone new on the team every once in a while.

And it's good to see of them now, at the training camp again?
J: Yes. A couple of guys I didn't race with at all last year.
B: The last time you'll see some of them.
J: Yeah, in December we get to spend a good chunk of time together and then you just build on that any time you're a roommate or in a race with someone after this. Everyone is a pleasure to be around.

Brent, you recently retweeted an article about the roster cuts, the rider reduction. The article was against it. Is that what you feel as well?
B: I'm not necessarily against it if it's done with respect to everyone involved, being the teams, the riders, the races and the governing body. This time, as far as I'm aware of, that wasn't really the case. I think a lot of those parties weren't involved and I think cycling has been held back by this sort of decisions, thinking in the past. Until we can get sort of cohesive and on the same page, really actually working together...

It's a small world and we should all really be on the same team. It should be less about the power play, trying to stick the other one in the corner. Looking out we can really professionalize and legitimize this whole sport. In this case there's no sense of that happening. As riders we weren't involved in that decision at all. Part of that, we have to own, is that historically we haven't elevated ourselves and put ourselves at the big kids table with those other stakeholders and show that we deserve to be there and work to make steps to be more involved, take more responsibility and be there.
Photo of Brent Bookwalter and Joey Rosskopf by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com





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