Post by: Nick Keough
The US cyclocross season has flown by, so much so that I haven’t gotten a chance to make a post the entire time. My season had some downs, a bunch of ups, and a few rides that made the ‘08 cross season my best ever. In September I laid out three major goals for this season, I wanted to podium at nationals, win the Verge U23 series championship, and be a consistent top ten finisher in the UCI events that I raced in. Looking back on the season I am happy to say that most races went well, but I feel like the ones that didn’t just added to my experience, making me a better bike racer. I mean seriously, who gets it right every time anyway.
Green Mountain Cyclocross (UCI C2) Verge Series Rounds 1&2
Coming into my first race of the season I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t stepped on a cross bike since nationals last year, I was riding on borrowed bikes, and my road season had just ended two weeks previously with the hardest bikes race that I’d ever done (Univest GP). I lined up on the front row and I got the hole shot, not being exactly sure what to do I looked back at my teammate Chris Jones who was on my wheel. I figured that I should just keep it rolling, I felt pretty good so that’s what I did. We started rolling and our group formed with Jamey Driscoll, Matt White, Matt O’Keefe, Justin Lindine, Chris, and myself. Unfortunately, about three laps later I flatted out of the group just after the pit. Let me tell you, that was not a fun jog through a Vermont XC skiing area, it was pretty miserable. I ended up making my way to the pit, and I finished up the day as the 3rd U23 of 3 and 22nd overall. I was pretty bummed, but I knew that I had good legs so it didn’t bother me too much.
At least I knew what to expect for the second day of racing, I came into it with some pretty solid confidence and I felt like my cross legs coming back underneath me a bit. I started off well again, making that front selection, but when Dan Timmerman attacked hard on the first lap I used my better judgment and let him go. Coming into the second lap Jamey hit it pretty hard to go after Dan and Chris followed him. I decided to sit back and race my own race. I felt pretty solid at first, but I think I over did it a little, and I faded slowly back to 8th place. I just held of Justin Spinelli who was closing on me the last three laps. I was pretty excited because that was my best result in a UCI race, and it was only the first weekend.
Erdinger Grand Prix of Gloucester (UCI C2) Verge Series Rounds 3&4
Gloucester is always one of my favorite races of the year, the venue, the course, the fans, it is just the epitome of a great New England cyclocross race. This was the first time that I had lined up with the real guys for the season, and as always there was a very solid field with riders like Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, and Jesse Anthony lining up just in front of me. My plan was to ride smart, and hopefully end up with a top fifteen finish, which would be respectable considering how poorly my race went there in ‘07. I had a good start and made it into the preliminary front group, I made a rather unwise decision of staying in the front group early on, but it was working out as I settled in and felt pretty good. On the third lap I got a rear flat coming off the pavement on the finish straight. I tried not to panic, but its your first reaction when you know that your race is over. I made it to the pit eventually, but it was just damage control at that point. I rode in as the 3rd U23 again and 25th place overall, I was very unpleased to say the least.
The course on Sunday was not typical Gloucester, but it suited me pretty well with the newly added soft run up and s-turn sand pit. It was a very hot day and I made the best decision that I had all weekend in bringing a water bottle with me in my back pocket. I had a much more tame start, and I settled into a good group with Matt White and Justin Spinelli, but unfortunately he had a mechanical early on and I was by myself for a bit. Eventually Jesse Anthony and I began to work together and we caught Matt White with a couple of laps to go. Jesse attacked pretty hard when we caught Matt, and I wasn’t able to stay with them. I worked my way back up to Matt after Jesse gapped him out, but he left me coming into the final lap. I was still feeling pretty solid and I had a big enough gap over the next group of Adam Myserson and Josh Dillon that I held them off pretty easily. I ended up finishing 9th place overall and I was the first U23. I was very happy with the race, and I ended up taking the lead in the U23 Verge Series. It was nice to put on the leaders jersey at Gloucester, especially since it was the first time that I’ve ever lead the Verge series in my career.
Granogue (UCI C1) and Wissahickon (UCI C2)
The next week after Gloucester Jesse and I piled all of our crap into my little Chevy S-10, with our final destination being the best Mid-Atlantic cross race in the US. I was pretty excited because I finally got my new bikes built up, but I was slightly worried to race in a new position. After more planning snafus that one would believe Jesse and I arrived at the venue on time Saturday morning. Because it was the biggest race that I had entered so far I really wanted to pull down a good ride so that I could gain some momentum as the season started to pick up. I made the second group after the start with Jamey Driscoll, Barry Wicks, and Andy Jacques-Maynes. I was feeling good, but a stupid mistake in a technical corner left my shoulder, knee, and hand meeting the ground in a way that I would have preferred to avoid. I couldn’t hold onto the bar very well at all, and I ended up pulling the plug to save myself for Sunday once I realized I was out of contention for any UCI points.
Sunday’s event was a half hour away from Granogue in Wissahickon, Pennsylvania. The course was very open and fast, the exposed venue was very tough as a result of the cold air and high winds. The race went pretty typically for me, I was riding very strongly in a group with Jamey Driscoll and Davide Frattini, until I got to a point where I was riding way over my head and I made a mistake. I got hooked up on a course post and my shift lever was ripped off. I was still in good position after taking my pit, but a front flat left me well outside the top ten. I ended up finishing the race in a pretty disappointing 27th place. The drive home got me pretty bummed that I traveled all that way for no result, but if you don’t try you’re not going to even have a chance to do well.
Cycle Smart International (UCI C2) Verge Series Rounds 4&5
Going into the fourth round of the verge series I was leading the under 23 category, and I only didn’t have a good hold on it as a result of my ridiculous inconsistency. I had impressively bad legs in the race, and I ended up finishing in 16th place. I’m still not sure what caused that ride, but I just didn’t have the legs on the day to get a good result.
The only bonus about having as terrible a ride as I did on Saturday is that you get so pissed that nothing is going to hold you back from getting what you came for on Sunday. After Jake and I messed with my position on the bike I headed to the start. I made the front selection with Jamey, Dan Timmerman, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Matt White, Davide Frattini, Justin Lindine, and Josh Dillon. Eventually, our group split apart into two groups with Jamey, Andy, Dan, and Matt up front and the rest of us holding about five seconds back. I was feeling good and I tried not to over do it, just rolling through to keep everything moving. On the last lap Davide made an acceleration that only Josh could follow, and I decided to wait and take Justin to the sprint. I took the sprint for seventh place, and I won the U23 race which put me back into the jersey yet again.
After a very large amount of deliberation with myself, I decided to take a weekend at home instead of flying out to Toronto to race the two C1’s that were happening this weekend. My teammate Matt Shriver put in a few very good rides out there making it onto the podium for Sunday in 5th place. Instead I raced my home event, put on by Bill Sykes in Plymouth, MA. I was very happy to see that Matt O’Keefe showed up because it was nice to have someone to race with. The course was a blast, and after hopping the two single barriers on the course I put a gap into Matt and I was able to keep it going for the rest of the race, despite the fact that my front derailleur broke and I could only soft pedal for ¾ of a lap. It was nice to win a race, despite the size of the event, it’s always good for the moral to cross the line in first place.
USGP Mercer Cup (UCI C1) Rounds 3&4
I was really psyched to race going into the USGP races in New Jersey, it had been a two weeks since I had done a big race and I was feeling really good. I had a really bad start position because everyone and their uncle came out to this race. Knowing that it was a long race I chilled out for the first couple laps of the extremely muddy race. I worked my way slowly forward, and with about three laps to go I was into the top fifteen and riding with Bjorn Selander. Bjorn and I were the third and fourth U23 riders, with about three laps to go I was coming up the finish straight when a gust of wind blew some mesh snow fencing into my right shift lever. I was thrown to the ground and I immediately rolled off the course to avoid being hit by other riders. By the time I realized what was going on there was an EMT standing over me telling me not to move. Naturally I ignored him, staggered back to my feet, and got back into the race. I still rode quite well but I lost about 30 positions while on the ground. I worked my way back up to about 30th place. After the race I went the EMT station because I couldn’t see straight, and they told me to go to the hospital if I didn’t get any better over the next couple of hours. They kindly informed me that there was a chance that if I went to sleep I wouldn’t wake up, that didn’t help me feel any better. I ended up suffering through the night, and obviously, since I am writing this now, I did survive and I did race on Sunday.
I woke up Sunday morning with a killer headache, but my legs felt surprisingly good for having raced hard the previous day. By the time the Elite Race came the course was a total mess, but it was slightly better that it had been on Saturday. I started off very poorly and I was informed the first time through the pit that I was sitting in the top 35. Now I know that when the word “top” is placed in front of any number it makes it sound way better, but we all know that it is just a cover up for the truth. I started picking riders of slowly, and by the end of the third lap I was being told that I was just outside the top fifteen. I was feeling great, I just kept thinking that I knocked something loose the day before that was making me ride better than I ever had. The next report that I received was that Danny Sumerhill, who was sitting in 10th overall and 2nd U23, was just in front of me. Just after seeing two laps to go I caught onto the group of Dan Timmerman and Danny. It was then that I went into race mode, you know, the point when all you are thinking about is what the most efficient way to cross the line before the guy you’re with. As Danny and I started to line each other up we were able to leave Timmerman. On the last lap I came to the front for a second and got a gap, but coming I rode farther on the uphill and Danny ran by me into the pit. We got slightly tangled in the pit and he got a gap on me. I punched it as hard as I could coming over the flyover, but just as I caught his wheel in the last corner I dabbed my foot and that was the only gap he needed. I finished up 11th place overall and 3rd U23. After the race I was told that I ended up a close second place in the SRAM most aggressive rider to Troy Wells. I couldn’t have asked for a better race, I knew that I was coming into my legs and that I was just improving as the season continued.
Landscaping Super cup (UCI C1) Days 1&2
After a short ferry trip and a bit of aimless driving around Long Island I lined up for the first day of the UCI Category 1 Elite race at the Whitmore Super cup. I had a great start on the day, as usual, but I ended up really struggling in the cold. I was having a lot of trouble with my lings, I couldn’t get a full breath. I went backwards pretty quickly, and I just finished up the day in 18th getting lapped in the last 200m of my last lap.
As my weekends typically go, Sunday was the best race that I’ve had in my life. It was still freakin’ cold, but I was more prepared. I had a good start, but I held back when things started to get tough. After losing contact with the front group, Troy Wells and I began to work together. About two laps later he had an issue with his leg, and I started to settle into my own pace. With five laps to go Matt White and I came together and started trading off pulls. We were moving forward pretty well, and on the last lap I came to the front and got a gap on the ride-up. I hit it and didn’t look back, knowing that I was playing my last card. I was able to hold a five second gap on Matt, and I almost caught Andy Jacques-Maynes on the line. I finished in seventh place, which was the best result that I’d ever gotten. It’s the best feeling when you cross the line, knowing that you’ve accomplished what you came to the race to do.
Baystate Cyclocross (UCI C2) Verge Series Round #6
This race was officially the worst ride of my life. I got the hole shot pretty easily, and I lead for the majority of the first two laps. Then Jamey Driscoll attack our group pretty hard, I ended up being the only person to follow him. The next three laps were like I was moving in fast forward. Jamey was just rolling it on and I was holding on for dear life, but then the best thing happened, he slowed down slightly and looked over his shoulder to check if I was still there. I was psyched because I knew that I had made it though the hardest part. That lap, on the run up, I put my foot down and my knee just completely buckled under my weight. I didn’t know what was going on, my leg was totally numb. After a lap of struggling to figure out what was happening Matt White and Justin Spinelli caught and passed me. I didn’t even have the ability to respond. Over the last three laps I was just trying to finish. After a visit to my chiropractor and my primary care doctor we traced the issue to my crash in New Jersey because my neck had been bothering me over the previous two weeks. Luckily as of now it still hasn’t happened again, but my neck isn’t 100%, but it didn’t hinder me in RI or at Nationals so I think I’m okay.
NBX Grand Prix of Cyclocross (UCI C2) Verge Series Rounds 8&9
The last weekend in the regular season of cyclocross saw me finally figuring out how to ride my bike consistently. I started off the race conservatively, not following Jamey when he attacked on the first. Our chase group was eight guys, and I was planning on just sitting in and gauging my efforts. Everyone in the group gave it a go at least one time, but I just sat back, listening to the advice that I had heard a hundred times from a number of experienced riders, “sit in”. I picked my place to go for it on the last lap, knowing that I needed to lead out the sprint. I hit it hard going off the road at the top of the course, and lead coming off of the beach. After the effort the only person left on my wheel was Adam Myerson, and I knew that if I was going to win the sprint I would be best off not to let him get back to my wheel easily. I still had a gap coming onto the pavement, and I took the sprint pretty easily. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten second at a Verge race! I was pumped.
Sunday went very similarly to Saturday in that we had a very large group that was not breaking up easily. However, Jamey chilled out for a while and waited until three laps to go to attack, and that split the big group up a bit. Jamey got a gap on his own, while the second group consisted of Derrick St. John, Justin Spinelli, Adam Myseron, and myself. Unfortunately, I got a front flat on the last lap. I got to the pit still sitting fifth place, but I ran out of time and couldn’t catching the group of three that I was in. I still finished a very solid fifth place, and I took the win in the Overall U23 Series, which was something that I’ve wanted to do since I started racing cross. I was feeling great and with nationals only a week away, I felt like I was ready.
2008 USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships
After road tripping it straight from the race in Warwick the previous week, we made it to Kansas City, Missouri on the Wednesday before my race. The conditions on Friday were very slick and muddy, but by the time my race came around on Saturday the course was dry, but very tacky. While warming up on the course I had a big scare when my front tire rolled off the rim on a downhill corner. I was thinking that the day wasn’t going to go very well, but I got it all figured out and started my warm-up routine on the trainer. I was called up to the start line as the second rider because of my UCI standing. I took the hole shot, knowing that it was better for me to set the pace until I knew how everyone was feeling. On the climb Danny Sumerhill got tangled up on my rear wheel and Nick Weighall attacked pretty hard. I was able to follow easily enough, and that was the selection. We started rolling for the next couple of laps, until Alex Howes ad Adam McGrath came up to us. Nick attacked again and I followed, which got rid of the two of them quickly. Coming into the run up a lap later I felt my headset come loose drastically. Nick pulled a gap on my down the descent, and I got on my pit bike after loosing about thirty seconds. At that point I went into damage control, I knew that I could hold Danny off who was about a minute back. After settling in seeing four laps to go, I heard Luke yell, “you’re f’ing catching him, keep it up!”. I looked up and saw that I was riding back up to his wheel. I felt perfect. I settled in then came to the front and I knew that I was racing how I had wanted. On the second to last lap, Nick gapped me out coming off the run-up and he punched it hard. Over the next lap I chased hard, but I wasn’t able to make it to his wheel before the pavement. I finished second, and although I am never happy with a result that I know that I could have improved upon, I really can’t complain.