The 20th annual Cycle-Smart International challenged the riders today in Northampton, Massachusetts. They had to stay focused because if not, the roots, the still damp sections after two days of rain or the sandpit would get them. And for many it did with bobbles taking them down left and right.
In the end the win came down to a duel between two riders Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross) and Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder). After separating themselves about halfway through the race, the pair duked it out but they were still glued to each other’s wheel by the final lap where Keough took the sprint for the victory in the fifth round of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series presented by Cycle-Smart.
“I tried to recover a little bit by the last lap, I know that Luca has a really good kick. He used it in a couple of different spots coming into the finish. We took it onto the road and I just had a little extra because I didn’t do those efforts.” L. Keough said after the race.
Once again, Damiani came off like a rocket at the start, taking the holeshot with the field strung out behind him. The fast pace quickly created separations with five riders pulling away, Luke Keough, Damiani, Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart), Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott) and Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott). Behind them another Keough brother, Nick, was chasing solo.
More bobbles, shuffling and re-shuffling in the chase group and Damiani & Luke Keough were off the front solo. Behind them, a chase group with Nick Keough, Myerson, Lindine, Townsend, Weston Schempf (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes) and Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes). A few second behind them Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com).
The pair at the front continued to duke it out with Damiani actually pulling away with three to go when Luke Keough bobbled. But Keough closed the gap and the two stayed together until the end. Meanwhile, the chase group was completely disorganized. Feeling the pressure of wearing the series leader’s jersey Lindine crashed a few times and every time made his way back to the group to launch another attack but he was reeled in. The group made its way to the finish line where Nick Keough took the sprint for third.
With his sixth place, a bloodied Lindine kept the Elite series jersey while Nick Keough held onto his jersey in the U23
series. Racing continues on Sunday with day 2 of the Cycle-Smart International on a slightly modified course.
Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross). “Beside this top section, that was the only section where Luca was really hurting me, he was just taking those turns a little faster than I was but hopping the barrier wasn’t a huge advantage except for that one lap where I messed up a little and he got a little gap.”
About the last lap. “I was going to take it easy, I led through the technical sections trying not to make mistakes. Coming into the finish, Luca just hit me three times and I got right back on the wheel and took him on the road.”
About the duel. “After the sandpit, he hit it and I knew he was strong but I came back smooth, I was just comfortable after that.”
About the split in the group. “Jerome was out there, driving it real hard so was Justin Lindine, just attacking, Justin bobbled and me and Jerome went and then Luca caught us, and then me and Luca were just going back and forth, Jerome just cracked and it was just us two.”
Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder). “I was fast on the barriers with the bunny hop and I tried to do that with two laps to go. The last lap we were just looking at each other too much, I know he’s really fast. When I attacked with two laps to go, he closed the gap on me really easy so I decided to stay on the wheels, not jump the barriers and see what was going on in the last few corners. I tried to make a move but he was just stronger.”
Race of who made the less mistakes like the women? “I think yes. We split the group and once we got the group of 4, the guys that were dropped were actually by mistakes. And that’s it. Keough did some mistakes too but he was so strong, he always came back really fast on my wheel. I totally feel the sickness from Sunday. Sunday I had a fever and I was sick on Monday and Tuesday too, I trained a little on the trainer during the week and yesterday was my first day outside. But I was feeling good but my legs were just not fast but I think it’s going to be a good opener for tomorrow.”
Why so many mistakes? “On the wood section, it was still humid and there were a lot of little rocks that you can’t see, some roots, and really slippery so if you’re not really focused or just tired, it’s easy to crash. The sand is always a tricky part of the course and I think those were the two points where everybody made a mistake.”
About racing with Keough. “When we got a gap, just me and Keough, we actually worked together. We don’t tell each other but it was like we work together until the last lap, me and and you and then we see what’s going on. It was fun racing with Keough.”
Nick Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross). “The group was a mess actually. Justin ended having a problem which kind of split the whole thing up and we were spread out all over the place. There was no organized chase, it was more one group would go with two guys then it would come back together then it would split up again. I didn’t think it was coming back together a couple of points and I was keeping a steady pace. It all came back together on that last lap, it was mayhem. Everyone was trying to get into second wheel coming through up towards the finish. I ended jumped hard out of the sand and by the pit, I got first wheel, I kind of closed the door on Adam a little bit when he tried to come through before the line, I just punched it and hoped he wasn’t coming around me, he’s quick.
Would an organized chase have caught the duo? “I was definitely interested in sitting second wheel, Luke was up there and he had his work cut out for him as it was with just Luca. I was trying not to chase but I was trying to keep our group together and conserve as best I could. I think if it was an organized chase, maybe if Justin Lindine didn’t end up having so many issues, we may have come back together. He had probably three or four that I saw and I was riding around him the whole time, he was riding strong going backwards and forwards, he was a rough time of it. I was actually on his wheel and telling him to keep it calm because he’s riding strong, it was almost like he was panicking and he started making little mistakes.”
Will the same happen tomorrow? “It should be similar. Obviously, my brother and Luca are the guys to watch. Depending on how the race plays out, they may get a gap again but if it’s a little more steady, a little less punchy, it may stay together and that may change the dynamic a bit. I know that if Luca and myself are together, we have more cards to play just like if Justin and Jerome are in the group. It brings the team dynamics into it which you don’t see at a lot of races.”
Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott). “Today was one of those days where I couldn’t get out of my own way. I apologize to anybody I crashed in front of. I don’t know, I hit the deck like three, four times. Sometimes you crashed hard and it gets in your head and you start not taking the corners as confidently as you should maybe. It’s disappointing but I have to try and shrug it off, hope for better things tomorrow.”
Is it different having the leader’s jersey on your back? “Yes absolutely. I was probably more nervous before the start of today’s race than I have been before at a race in a long time and maybe that was part of it, maybe I was a little bit too hyped up. I felt good but I just couldn’t pull it all together. Now the race is getting closer by the day and I need to stop having days where I make so many mistakes.”
Top 10 Elite Men Results (Complete Results)
1. Luke Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross)
2. Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b Geargrinder)
3. Nicholas Keough (Champion System p/b Keough Cyclocross)
4. Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)
5. Weston Schempf (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)
6. Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott)
7. Jerome Townsend (BikeReg.com / Joe’s Garage / Scott)
8. Christian Favata (Favata’s Tablerock Tours and Bikes)
9. Ryan Knapp (BikeReg.com)
10. Jonny Sundt (Kenda Pro Cycling)