The Keoughs – bike racing 24×7

Posted on 23. Jan, 2010 by in interviews

Browse the results of road and cross races, and one name pops up, Keough. Five brothers, Jake, Nick, Luke, Jesse and Ian have been making a name for themselves in the cycling world. Ranging in age from 22 to 12, they live and train together and are coached by the oldest Jake.

Luke Keough (Champion Systems) leads his brother Jake at the Cycle-Smart International I

Luke Keough (Champion Systems) leads his brother Jake at the Cycle-Smart International I

“They’re pretty close, they’re each other’s best friends, it’s worked well for our family even though it’s bike racing 24 x 7.” said mom Linda about her sons. “I went away for a couple of days, I went on a workshop, they were sitting at the table talking about bike racing when I left, they were talking about bike racing when I got home.”

Last year while riding with the Kelly Benefit Strategies on the road, Jake won the overall U25 USA Crits Series as well as three stages at the Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay. Luke is a two-time US Junior Cross Champion (15/16 and 17/18 age category) and won the U23 Verge NECCS Series. Both Luke, 18, and Nick, 20,  have represented the US at the Cyclocross World Championships.

Once again this year Luke, who finished third at the US 23 Cross Nationals, will  be racing in next weekend’s Cross World Championships as part of the 5-man US U23 team. Luke will be lining up at the final World Cup in Hoogerheide this Sunday.

After a promising start, Nick’s cross season was cut short by a injury sustained in a crash at the Cycle Smart International II race back in November.  Jake, Luke and Nick raced cross for Champion Systems in 2009.

Nick Keough (Champion Systems)

Nick Keough (Champion Systems)

It all started when Jake was six years old. A friend introduced the family to BMX and that was all it took. One after the other, the brothers followed him into cycling and dad Michael joined in the fun.

“Then he started doing BMX because we were all there, he started doing it ‘why not, if you can’t beat them join them’” said mom Linda about her husband. Linda who rides added with a smile. “They’ve been trying to talk me into doing cyclocross, I do ride a little trainer at home but I’m not competitive, they get that from somebody else.”

Breaking his ankle every year for five years doing free-style jumping was enough for Jake who switched his focus to road racing. The brothers followed choosing cross, road or both.

Having the boys all practice the same sport made it easier on the family. “Soccer they all would have to be going to different practices and different games so I would be going all over the place. Saturdays other moms were going everywhere, BMX they practiced together and raced together so we stayed together as a family which I think has really helped our family dynamics, it just seemed to work for our lifestyle.” said Linda.

Jesse Keough (CL Noonan) at the USA Jr National Championships

Jesse Keough (CL Noonan) at the USA Jr National Championships

Similarities and differences. “I really followed Jake on the BMX, me and him are a lot alike, we like extreme stuff and going fast” said Luke nicknamed Danger.

Jake agreed. “Jesse and Nick ride the same, they were less risk takers but once they were confident that they could accomplish something then they would go after it whereas me and Luke we just throw our body at it.”

Jesse’s nickname “is the body because he is pretty lean.” explained Jake. “The body is more of a diesel than the rest of us are. He didn’t race much BMX as we did, so I think his aerobic capacity is a lot higher that ours was at his age. Once he develops a little bit more muscle, I think he’s going to be able to climb and time trial really well but he’s only 115 pounds and he’s taller than I am.”

At age 16, Jesse is still developing his skills. Both he and Nick are home-schooled to facilitate the scheduling of training and school.

“We try to keep the pressure off. I started a bit younger than they did, I’m a bit further ahead [than they were at my age].” laughed Jesse when asked if he felt any pressure in following his brothers’ footsteps.

What about the youngest Ian? “Who knows about Ian. Ian is a good combination, he’s crazy. He’s hilarious because he hangs around with us so he’s a 12 with a 20-year old sense of humor and he’s good on the bike, he loves it.” said Jake.

Focus on cross for Luke…. for now. Even though he’s been to the Cyclocross World Championships twice as a junior, he is not looking for results in his first year as a U23 rider, he just “wants the experience”.

Luke Keough (Champion Systems) finished 3rd at the USA U23 Cross National Championships

Luke Keough (Champion Systems) finished 3rd at the USA U23 Cross National Championship

His first time at the Jr World Championships was “really a jump into the fire, I didn’t know what I was in for, got a lot of experience.” At seventeen, Luke finished tenth at the 2007 Cross World Championships.

In 2008, he along with Danny Summerhill and Bjorn Selander spent two months training and racing in Europe to prepare for the World Championships and returned home for a break and more racing. It was looking good until a bad race just before Worlds moved his start position back. “I got fourth row start position vs second row and that messed up my whole Worlds goals.” He finished thirteenth.

Hopefully this year the conditions will match his skills. “I like fast conditions because I am a good road rider, I like the sprints so I don’t mind in the bunch. I’ve been good in the slick mud, I’m good in the mud I just don’t like it as much, I’d rather have fast.”

As for his future, the choice between road or cross will be made in the next few years. “If I get a big road contract it might be a little more road just to try and get myself established on the road but if I stay with a little bit smaller team on the road I can focus on cross and maybe do what Jamey Driscoll is doing. He’s really one of the only guys who basically only rides cross. You can actually do solely for a living.”

When asked if that’s what he wanted to, Jake jumped in with “No he’d like to be a pro road racer. He’s going to be on the team with Nick and me in a few years.”

“I’m in cross for awhile then it’s road.” agreed Luke.

The question then had to be asked, who is faster Luke or Jake?

“This year he hasn’t beaten me on a cross bike in ten races. I just try not to get beat at this races, he has to try and beat me.” said Luke. What about on the road? “He’s faster no doubt.”

Jake is all about road. “I’m a road sprinter and that’s what I love to do.”

He was using cross to improve his aerobic capacity and for the first time since his broke his ankle years ago, Jake also raced cross in 2009.

“I usually pit for these guys for the whole season but this year I felt that I needed to work on my threshold. As a sprinter on the road you don’t get a lot of threshold work, you sit all day and then you do a sprint so come time for the harder stage races you don’t have that same horsepower. So I figured cross would boost my threshold for going into base miles next season.”

With multiple top 5 results, he is satisfied with his 2009 road season. “I had some goals for the season that I think I met pretty well.”

“The past four years I’ve sort made the same jump each year which has been a good feeling. Last year I was making podiums relatively consistently and always in the top ten, and this year I was thinking that maybe I could be winning those races consistently and it was a little surprising to see that rather than making the jump to winning races, that jump was actually always being top 5. I felt like I made a jump in consistency rather than that spike of winning, so I think that was a good goal to meet and hopefully next year I can go from podiums to winning.”

He enjoyed his time with Kelly Benefit Strategies but decided to move on to a new opportunity. “We did a lot of racing, the team was awesome this year, we were everywhere, raced in Portugal, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, it was good.”

Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) does a wheelie across the finish line after being caught in a crash in the final lap of the Redlands crit

Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) does a wheelie across the finish line after being caught in a crash in the final lap of the Redlands crit

In 2010, Jake will be racing with the UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis team who was looking to bolster its sprinting squad.

“We’ve got some really fast guys and the goal is really to just win bike races with any of the sprinters. Hopefully that will come and that’s where my step needs to come, next is winning more.” said Jake.

One of his goals this year will be to take on  the Athens Twilight race again. “It’s an awesome race with tons of people, I’ve been close, top 10 three years in a row.”

And of course, the US Pro Crit Championships where he finished 9th two years ago and fourth last year. “I was behind Alex Candelario in the rain, 100 meters to go I could see the finish, ready to open up my sprint and we had another rider crash in front of us an take our line, that’s just bike racing but I could taste it.”

Is every brother going to make it pro? “I think so.” answered Jake.

Nick signed with Kenda Pro Cycling p/b GearGrinder and Luke will be racing with the New England team BikeReg-Cannondale in 2010.

“I think give Luke a year or two and he’ll be on the NRC circuit. It will be fun, there will be the three of us at many of the NRC races this year.” said Jake.

Jesse and Ian will continue with the Junior CL Noonan cycling team, run by dad Michael.

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