Tour of Somerville Champion Luke Keough Talks Winning and His Future in Cyclocross
by Molly Hurford
This time last year, we did an interview with Luke Keough after the Tour of Somerville crit in New Jersey. Back then, the 19-year-old was doing almost exactly what he’s doing a year later, racing with Team Mountain Khakis on the road. However, this year is different, because he’s already taken two of the biggest race wins in the country: the Tour of Somerville and the Twilight Criterium in Athens, Georgia. This year, Somerville ended in a sprint, a photo finish that left team manager and fellow cyclocrosser Adam Myerson pulling up to the line and shouting, “Did he do it? Did he do it?” to Keough’s father, who was standing close by yelling as his son crossed the finish. The photo showed Keough ahead by inches, narrowly taking the win in a race that had, until just minutes before the finale, appeared to be ending with a two-man breakaway that didn’t include the now 20-year-old racer.
He’d also had a stellar cyclocross season: he took the Shimano Pro Series overall win, and once again was a two-day winner at the Cycle-Smart International Race. It seems like the sky is the limit for the middle Keough brother, and we caught up with him to find out his plans for the rest of the summer and the upcoming cyclocross season.
Cyclocross Magazine: Tell me about your win at the Tour of Somerville! It was such an amazing final sprint.
Luke Keough: That was a big one. I mean, it’s Somerville. It’s one of the oldest one-day races in the country. I went into the day injured, and I still am. I have a torn hamstring; it was really hurting last week. I was really worried about the weekend, and was coming into it with my mind preoccupied, so I wasn’t thinking about winning. I was thinking about how I could get to the finish and do the best for my team. Everyone looks to me at the finish of the race and if I’m not there to deliver, I let those guys down. So to be able to win was huge. I definitely don’t think it was a fluke, by any means. I raced my bike, did everything according to plan. We missed a move and my team pulled them back and it was awesome. They made it a bunch sprint, and I had to freelance the sprint and took it to the finish. It was a huge result for us. It felt really good.
CXM: So far this season, you’ve won Twilight and Somerville, two of the biggest crits in the US. Did you expect it?
LK: We’ve been talking about that, but it’s more a realization of what I’ve been expecting of myself. Last year, I was expecting results like this year because I was strong enough, but I was always coming from behind and was rarely on the podium. There were just slight details that had to be changed and now it’s all clicking. It’s all coming together. That’s not to say it’s expected but … it’s expected, you know? That’s where I want to be, that’s what I want to do.
My team knows, I get angry after races sometimes. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who wants to win more than me. Actually, that’s not true. My brother Jake wants to win as much as me. We’re definitely cut from the same wood. Winning is what we want to do. Can’t tell a racer not to race.
CXM: What’s next?
LK: Racing in Chicago this weekend. I’m second overall in the USA Crits and second in NCC standings. There’s a USA Crit and NCC race this weekend, so those are top priorities. That’s the immediate future, then it’s just crit after crit. It’s a full schedule.
CXM: How’s it feel racing against your brothers on the road?
LK: Jesse and Nick were out there this weekend too, racing for Champion Systems and Keough Cyclocross, and they were leading each other out. I was trying to be near them, but I was giving them room and they were giving me room. They actually helped lead me out in the race. It’s difficult racing against them, but we try to respect each other, give each other room, and help each other out. It’s going to be interesting when we’re all really swinging for the win. It’ll be an interesting dynamic that we haven’t experienced yet.
CXM: Can we look forward to seeing more of the Keough Cyclocross team this season?
LK: Absolutely. We’re looking to keep it growing. The biggest thing is becoming valuable to sponsors, and we’re working with all different people on different aspects and products. We’re looking for big title sponsors; we want to make it a team that’s recognizable, a team that gets results racing and marketing. We want to make cyclocross viable, so we need to make it worth it for people to put money into it.
CXM: Do you think you’ll ever leave cyclocross? How will you balance the two?
LK: It’s hard because right now it doesn’t feel that far out. You always have to plan a whole season in advance. Right now I’m playing it by ear, seeing what happens, seeing what I get for a road contract. Definitely a big decision that’s been weighing on me and I’m trying not to stress about it. I’d love to be able to do both. No matter what, I’ll still participate in both, whether it’s at the level I am now, or shorter periods of the season. That’s sort of what it looks like now: a reduced schedule, but not a reduced commitment. I may not do a September to February campaign, but I’ll be out there racing at the top level, and hopefully winning some races.
I’m trying to make steps on the road because right now, there is a future there. I’d love to have cyclocross become viable, but sadly, it isn’t right now. That’s what we’re working on with Keough Cyclocross. It’s something we’ll keep working on.
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