WARWICK, RHODE ISLAND — For Luke Keough (Keough Cyclocross), Justin Lindine (Joe’s Garage-BikeReg.com), and the third place rider in the Shimano Series’, Dylan McNicholas (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld), NBX in Warwick, Rhode Island, was to be a clash of the cyclocross titans of New England. On the line? The $5,000 prize money awarded to the series’ leader at the end of the weekend. The point spread? Going into the weekend, Lindine and Keough were separated by a mere three points, with Keough narrowly holding the lead. That lead increased substantially today.
The day before the race, Cyclocross Magazine caught up with both Luke Keough and Justin Lindine in order to hear their thoughts surrounding the weekend. Keough, who had just gotten in from training when we snagged him, told us “travel back from Europe [where he raced at the Koksijde World Cup last weekend] is always hard on the system. We will see how it goes but I definitely still feel the jet lag and that will be a big factor this weekend.”
Lindine told us, “I’m psyched about it. It’s a different position than I was in last year where I came into it and lost it at this race. Now, the pressure’s on Luke. I like the course, so I’m excited but I don’t feel like I have a ton to lose.”
Justin Lindine has been having the season of his life, snatching up UCI wins like they’re going out of business, and even picking up a C1 win at Providence. He’s talked a lot to us in the past about his struggles with his sprint, something Keough excels in, and the two being neck-and-neck pit two very different racing styles against each other. While Lindine started the season incredibly strong, Luke Keough has been having a fantastic second part of the season, taking both days of Cycle-Smart International nearly a month ago. The two have battled before: both of the racers made it onto the podium for Day Two of Providence, though Lindine took the win while Keough sprinted to a second place finish. And of course, no one can eliminate Dylan McNicholas from the equation entirely: he’s in third place in the series, after a double win at Bay State last weekend, and is still a legitimate contender for the series’ title.
Beyond Keough and Lindine, it was a star-studded field with six-time Swiss National Champion Christian Heule and his Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com teammate Jamey Driscoll joining the pinnacle of New England racing.
However, it was Luke Keough who took the win, not the international talent. In a sprint finish, Keough passed Heule by a mere wheel length at the line. The two were trailed by surprise rider of the weekend, Jamey Driscoll, followed by Cannondale-CylocrossWorld teammate Dylan McNicholas in fourth. Jerome Townsend (SmartStop-Mock Orange), who led for half of the last lap, took the fifth spot, followed by Lindine.
The racing was furious from the gun, with Dylan McNicholas (cyclocrossworld.com) taking the holeshot and leading the field into the sand. For the first few laps, despite the intense pace, the front group contained twelve racers with leadership switching between McNicholas, Mike Garrigan (Lapierre Canada), Shawn Milne (ECV-Mazda) and the duo from Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com. Notably, Keough, while rarely on the front, was never behind third wheel and was quick to cover all moves.
The clip slowly began to shed racers as Driscoll turned on his big diesel engine. The group was eventually trimmed to seven with Driscoll at the front, followed by Heule, Keough, McNicholas, Lindine and SmartStop-MOB teammates Jerome Townsend and Adam Myerson. While Myerson, McNicholas and Lindine were put into difficulty, each demonstrated his grit and determination by coming back to the lead. A split came with four to go as Heule, Driscoll and Keough went off the front, forcing the group of four to chase.
At two to go, thanks to some chess playing at the front, the gap had come down and it came back together. With seven racers evenly matched, this looked likely to come to a sprint. On the final half of a lap, Heule attacked out of the sandpit and Keough dug incredibly deep to stay with him. McNicholas, slightly gapped, turned himself inside out and made contact with Driscoll behind him.
On the final 180-degree turn onto the pavement, Heule was at the front with Driscoll second and looked ready to pick up his second Shimano Series victory of the season. Keough, dug deep into his reserves and uncorked one of the finest sprints we’ve seen all season and came around Heule for the most prestigious victory of his young career. Heule held on for second ahead of Driscoll. McNicholas came across the line fourth. Townsend picked up fifth ahead of Lindine with Myerson seventh.
With only one day of racing left in the Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series, we’re bound to see another race as exciting as today. The series winners will be crowned Sunday.