Every so often a race captures my imagination. I picked Justin Rossi, a DI swimmer in college currently employed as a Firefighter/Engineer in the Tahoe Douglas Fire District, to do well at the San Dimas E2 race I didn’t really knowing what he was capable of but he has had a few good runs at Madera and Merco so i figured he was worth watching. I thought he would win the TT but he came in 11th 15 seconds off the pace. 15 seconds can be a lot of time at San Dimas, a parcours not known for big GC shake ups due to a rolling, hard road race, that is selective but does not encourage many breaks. Rossi’s TT put him almost out of contention, but Rossi and his team mate Dustin Hahn approached each day with an abandon that makes champions, and exciting races. The other thing is he looks like Jason Statham, who was also a swimmer! How weird is that.
You had a great TT at Merco (8th) and Madera(1st), were you disappointed by your TT at San Dimas (11th)?
Ya, I was a little bummed. I had a rough time at both Ben Hur and Glendora Mountain TT’s and am still learning on how to pace the hill climbs. I way overcooked the front half of both and imploded.
It was still a good performance considering it was a hill climb – what was your team’s plan going into the Road Race.
My teammate and training partner, Dustin Hahn, and I were the only Marc Pro – Strava riders in the Cat 2′s so we didn’t have the advantage of a large team. Neither of us had raced the course before, so we relied on other teammate’s advice that had raced SDSR previously. We were told that breaks almost never stay away. The original plan was to sit in and ride conservative until the last KOM and throw down for the solo finish. We were sitting in 11th and 12th and had nothing to lose. The second lap I was off the front in a 3 man break. Once we were reeled in, Dustin and Mike Gil (Metromint) ripped off the front into the days break. So much for our game plan…
This is when it get’s exciting. Teammate up the road, a hungry pack of E2′s who will eat their young to get upgrade points, and on only you left in the field to try and keep the dogs at bay…what next?
It was kind of a crazy finish. I had a teammate up the road with a 2:00 gap on the field, so I didn’t want to drag the field up to him. On the 6th of 8 laps Josh Yeaton (GS Ciao Organic Horizon) crushed it up the KOM climb and I followed. I looked back at the beginning of the false flat and we had a gap. I went to the front and dug hard until the decent. Josh took his turn on the decent followed by the hardest pull I’ve ever taken through the start finish line. We continued to bury ourselves for the entire 7th lap when we caught Dustin and Mike on the KOM. We had the pro field about 30 seconds up the road at this point, who we caught by the feed zone of the final lap. I told the ref that I wasn’t going to sit and risk being caught. He said we had the left side of the road and to go for it. I drilled it up the feed zone climb, hearing encouragement from teammates in the pro field. Unfortunately Dustin and Mike weren’t able to hold on, as they had been alone all day.
Oh man – The decoy move! Now it’s just you and Josh Yeaton trying to maintain your gap. Only one thing left to do…
Unable to stay in front of the 150 rider pro field the ref told us we had to sit and wait until the pros got up the road. He said not to worry that we had a big gap on our field. Once getting the green light to race again, Josh and I pushed over the final KOM and towards the finish, which I was able to out kick him in the sprint. As we cruised back to the finish line to confirm our finish, Dustin rolled through solo in 3rd. Sitting 1st and 3rd overall, the yellow and green jersey’s and a large time gap on the field…. We were stoked on our days work.
That was the move of the race. So going into the crit you had a 4 second lead over second place – it was your race to loose – a tenuous lead given all the time bonuses – were you and your team nervous at all?
Not really, luckily I only had to worry about Josh getting time back, so for the most part I just marked him. I sprinted for a few primes and actually stole the green jersey off Dustin’s back. Sorry buddy…as long as it stays in the team name.
You ended up 5th in the crit, a great performance given several hard days of racing, and of course you won the GC – is this your biggest race yet?
For sure, it felt great to step on that podium. I was pretty happy about my finish at Merco as well, seeing how the competition was pretty legit. Last year I had some success moving through the categories. I would always tell my wife, “Babe, this is the Cat 4′s now, these guys are fast….Babe, this is the Cat 3′s, it’s not going to be so easy.” Now I’m at the level were these guys are fast and power alone will not win you races.
Tell me about your athletic background before cycling?
I grew up a swimmer and was racing in summer league before I was 4. I swam for the University of North Carolina for four years. I assume that is where my lungs and ability to suffer come from. What’s funny is I was known for upper body strength and I always had a weak kick. I swam distance events 400 Individual Medley, 1500, 500, 200 freestyle. I lived in the gym trying to become a sprinter, but I never had the fast twitch. VO2 and Threshold power for me. I spent most my 20′s bodybuilding and was about 220 LBS when I started riding bikes…probably not the best thing for cycling. I was told many times “You are too big to race bikes.” Now in my second season of racing I am 50 pounds lighter than when i started riding 3 years ago. Most people from the gym think I’m sick (and not in a good way).
What are you goals for the rest of the year?
I need to spend more time on my TT bike. I’m a climber stuck in a time trialer’s body. Marc Pro – Strava has some big races circled on our calendar. I am going to rest and try to focus on the next section of my season which includes Sea Otter, some classics, Mt Hood and District TT. We are a newly formed team and have buco talent and freakish power. I want to do the best job I can representing my team and its sponsors because they are both awesome.
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