Cape Cod Times
By ADAM SMARTSCHAN
CAPE COD TIMES STAFF WRITER
February 10, 2008
By ADAM SMARTSCHAN
CAPE COD TIMES STAFF WRITER
February 10, 2008
SANDWICH — The red betta fish lives on an island in the kitchen, past the garage littered with a dozen-odd bicycles and across the room from the salt and pepper shakers made from bike wheel hubs. He (she?) surely has something of an identity crisis. The fish's name (Tom, Lance, Mario, Eddy ... or something else, depending on the calendar) is about the only thing that changes from day to day in the Keough house.
For the five boys in one of the most athletically accomplished families on the Cape, life is about single-minded focus on their sport — cycling. For Jake, Nick, Luke, Jesse and Ian Keough, it's a constant, a reason to leave Sandwich High for home-schooling, to go to bed and wake up early, to skip the movies-and-the-mall teenage weekend.
Wash, rinse, ride, talk about riding, think about riding, dream about riding, repeat.
And from it all stems what seems to be the one unpredictably in the house near Holly Ridge Golf Club: The name of the red betta fish on the island in the kitchen. "We have this calendar," said Nick, 18, a stud in the under-23 road racing scene in New England. "It's a VeloNews (bicycle magazine) calendar, with every pro's birthday. We couldn't think of a new name for him, so we decided whoever's birthday it was, we would call him that for the day. You never know."
Here's what you know about the Keough boys: Right now, they're probably doing something related to bicycles. Here's what you don't know: the name of their fish today. But, of course, that deals with bikes, too.
But that's what it takes to have a soon-to-be senior pro (Jake, 20), a scary successful road U-23 (Nick), a two-time junior national cyclocross champion (Luke, 16), one of the top young 'cross riders of his age (Jesse, 15) and a talented youngster (Ian, 10).
"It's a great thing, because they're so disciplined," mom Linda said. "There's no place for drinking, smoking, even girls. I don't know if I'll ever have any daughters-in-law, unless they can ride a bike." (Linda, for the record, can and does ride a bike.)
Jake started racing BMX (tiny bike, dirt tracks, lots of jumps) at age 6. His brothers soon joined him, and even dad Michael got in on the sport ... at 40. Luke was ranked second in the country by 10, and, in true Keough fashion, Michael even reached the top three in his age group.
The kids were technically skilled and addicted to BMX, but didn't have the muscular build most top-end riders possess. A friend told Michael that cyclocross — a winter mountain bike/road hybrid featuring muddy courses and carry-the-bike-and-run obstacles — would increase their strength, so they tried it. They loved cyclocross. (It's on a bicycle. Of course they loved it.) Soon, BMX was out, and road biking — Lance Armstong's sport — was in, the better to increase stamina for 'cross.
Success was quick. After throwing themselves into the sports to the tune of hundreds a miles of week of training and thousands of miles of travel to events, Luke was a national champion, Nick was a U.S. national team member at the cyclocross junior world championships, Jake was fielding offers from professional teams on the road and Jesse and Ian were winning junior races of their own.
If they played basketball, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would be beating down their door. If they plied their trade on the gridiron, USC football coach Pete Carroll would have their cell numbers. Instead, it's cycling — morning, noon and night.
"The commitment is getting up early, going to bed early, no video games. They don't mess around instant messaging anyone," Michael said. "The friends they have are themselves, my wife and me, and the people from the cycling community. They don't hang around at the mall. "They're kind of an odd group that way. They're not like regular kids, kids you usually see at high school."
You won't see Luke — who admits it's a bit scary that racers as young as he have to face drug tests after major races — at a high school at all. A national 'cross champion in the 17-18 age group this year and the runaway winner of the six-race U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series, he switched to an online home-schooling program last month to better fit his racing schedule.
Jesse is still at Sandwich High School, but didn't rule out home schooling in the future — depending on how next year's 'cross season turns out.
Luke, who placed 10th at the junior world 'cross championships in Italy on Jan. 26, isn't worried about the change affecting his social life. "Most of my friends are bike racers," he said. Other racers, each other ... what else would they need?
"It's definitely a lifestyle," said Nick, a live-at-home Cape Cod Community College student. "That's one thing I think is part of our success. It's all we want to do — not that we feel like we're forced to do this. It's what we love to do ... I really don't feel like it's a hindrance. I hang out with friends when I have time. But it's definitely not a priority."
Jake, the oldest, doesn't race 'cross anymore — ankle problems have kept him on the road.
He could have turned pro for the coming spring/summer season, but said he wanted to stay an amateur to take another crack at the U-23 criterium national championship race, in which he placed third last year.
An exercise physiology student at CCCC, he trains his brothers in cycling. Even at 20, they're unabashedly his best friends. "Ever since we started racing BMX, we've traveled the country together," Jake said. "To be in the car 20 hours at a time, all together, it's a blast.
"The five of us all have the same mind-set. We're all really determined. Basically, we're each other's best friends. We ride constantly, and when we're not riding, we're talking about riding or training."
In the Keough house, that's just the way it is. If Jake, Nick, Luke, Jesse and Ian are awake, it's bike racing. You can set your watch by it — and a fish's name, too, depending on which pro racer has a birthday.
"They talk about bike racing from the minute they get up to the minute they go to bed," mom Linda said. "They pick up where they left off."
Staff writer Adam Smartschan can be reached at email@example.com.