Alexander Rossi, winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500, has a lifelong love of sports and speed. The once-aspiring ski racer California native soon turned to motor sports, starting with gokarts at age 10. He moved to Europe as a teen in pursuit of a racing career, eventually racing in F1 before returning to the United States. He’s now part of Andretti Autosport® in the Verizon® IndyCar® Series. Rossi recently won at Watkins Glen for his first road course victory.
Cycling has long been a part of Rossi’s training program. Since living in Indianapolis, the 25-year-old Rossi stepped up his riding and now counts the Zipp 454 NSW as his favorite wheelset. During one of his recent visits to the Zipp factory here in Indy, we sat down and talked with Rossi about his career and the role of cycling in his life:
You grew up near Lake Tahoe in Nevada City, Calf. You had interest in motor sports and downhill skiing from an early age. The Nevada City Classic is one of America’s most historic bike races. Where did cycling fit into your youth?
It was something we as a family would go to. We’d treat it like a parade. You’d go and set a cooler up and go with your grandma and grandpa and sit on the side of the street and watch the professional riders go.
We always had mountain bikes. Road biking wasn’t something I was really involved in until I got into the professional motorsports arena, but cycling was just a huge thing. It was something I loved to do during the summer. That was my summer sport.
Did you dream of a career in Alpine skiing?
Yes, for sure. My dad was on a path to go to the Olympics and be a part of the U.S. ski team and then his parents died. That changed his life direction. As I was growing up, skiing was something that was a huge part of the family. My mom would pull me out of school when there was a good snow day… It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I found out that (auto) racing was what I loved the most because I was involved in all types of different activities. Racing just took priority over everything. But I was fortunate to learn early on that fitness was a pretty big part of being a professional racecar driver and being a successful one.
Did your embrace of speed sports come from your family, or was it something you learned, or both?
I think it’s what you’re exposed to. My dad...