Keough sails in to victory after sprinting McNicholas at CSI Day 1. Cyclocross Magazine

Here, Keough sails in to victory after sprinting McNicholas at CSI Day 1 in 2011. Cyclocross Magazine

by Molly Hurford

United Healthcare seems to be scooping up ’cross racers for their road team this season, and while it seems to take them away from the cyclocross scene for a while, they always come back. Brad White has been racing for Moms in Tow, Jake Keough has been sneaking in and out of the New England pits, working for his brothers on Keough Cyclocross, and new additions Danny Summerhill and Luke Keough have been, on occasion, spotted tearing up grass and plowing through mud on courses across the country. Before the two new additions headed to their first training camp, Cyclocross Magazine caught up with them to hear all about making the jump to one of the biggest teams in the US, and what it will mean for their cyclocross careers down the road. We started with Luke Keough, and while he may not have spent much time on a ’cross bike this year, he’s hoping to come back stronger than ever.

Cyclocross Magazine: You kind of disappeared from cyclocross this season … I can guess the answer, but fill us all in!

Luke Keough: That seems to be how it’s appearing. That was the plan from the beginning, to take the middle of the season off. I started racing pretty early, did some races in September, took a month off and started training again in November for road, to build as much base as possible. Right now with training camps and stuff overlapping with a  lot of things, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do in these last few weeks of’cross. I want to get back on the bike and do a couple of races, but our second training camp overlaps with Nationals. I think some guys will get out of camp and go do that, but I want to make a good impression with my new team.

CXM: Speaking of that… new team!

LK: Yeah, 2012 season I’m signed with United Healthcare Pro Cycling, which is a big step for sure. That was the driving factor behind me taking some time off the ‘cross bike and trying to make that step onto the road. Last year, I shut down my season after NBX and didn’t do Nationals, and I wanted to make that step. I think I made that step last year but to make an even bigger step was going to take more commitment to the road. It’s pretty much the biggest team in the US and a huge opportunity and I want to capitalize on that now.

CXM: Once you get settled into that though, do you think you’ll come back to cyclocross?

LK: I talked a bit about that with Jake, my coach, and right now it looks like we’ll do a road season, hopefully I’ll have a good season, get good results, and get some good experience, and hopefully get fitness and come into ’cross season next year and have a longer early start, but still shut it down earlier than most guys. But hopefully I can come into the early season strong, have some fund and show people that I’m not done racing ’cross. Everyone’s giving me a hard time that I’m not on the ‘cross bike, but I’m definitely missing it and I definitely have it in me still.

CXM: We talked about that this weekend a bit when we were at NBX. You said watching the race made you wish you were in there, so has it been tough this season watching your brothers racing for Keough Cyclocross while you train for road?

LK: Yeah, it’s been tough. I’ve missed most of their races, either I’ve been away or training and haven’t been able to make it to the race, so I wasn’t paying much attention. But then when we went to NBX this last weekend, it’s a really fun course and I’ve done well there in the past. Seeing it and watching it from the sidelines, it really hit me that I miss it and it’s something I’m not going to give up. I’ll be back, but the priority is making steps on the road to be the best I can be this season, but I’ll be back on a ’cross bike for sure.

CXM: So UHC has two new riders with a background in cyclocross this season, you and Danny!

LK: Yeah, Danny’s been on the ’cross bike a bit more than I have, his schedule allows him to do that. Plus he’s got more miles in his legs, he’s a bit older, so he can still play with both and not suffer that much. I’m at the point where my road was suffering a bit from racing ’cross, so a year or two to make the gains on the road and I’ll be back.

CXM: It seems like UHC might be thinking about getting into ’cross a bit more, considering they picked you and Danny this year!

LK: I think it also goes to show the strength of cyclocross racers in general, actually. It’s not just a sideshow, it actually develop strong kids. It’s exciting.

CXM: Now you’re on the same team as your brother – is that a relief, not having to compete with him anymore?

LK: It’s kind of funny. That’s the theme everyone has been pushing. We never really raced against each other though. Even when we were in the same races, we would always give each other enough space. Jake is really good, so I’d just try to follow him around, follow him to the line. He’s a good wheel to be on. This year will be fun, even if we don’t do a ton of racing together. He’ll be in Europe more. I’m going to be in the US doing some stage races. Even training right now, we’re on the same program and that makes it fun, for sure.

CXM: So is the end goal putting a Keough on every continent?

LK: Ha, it’s funny, we’re always traveling around but we were barely ever home together. There’s almost always one gone. I think you caught the one week all of us were home last summer. It’s crazy but it’s fun.

CXM: Watching Keough Cyclocross growing this year, are you sad to not be part of that as much anymore?

LK: It’s crazy! We have awesome sponsors: Felt bikes, Shimano components, Enve wheels … everyone has been super supportive of us, growing the team. Growing the team has always been our goal It’s hard to watch it, especially now that we have this awesome setup, to watch it is hard but hopefully it just keeps growing.

Stay tuned for our interview with UHC’s other new hire, Danny Summerhill!