WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (VN) — Less than a week before he was scheduled to ride with the rest of Team Mountain Khakis-SmartStop in the 2011 Iron Hill Twilight Criterium, current USA CRITS Series leader Luke Keough was nailed by a car and wound up with a separated shoulder and torn rotator cuff. He rode the race nevertheless.
“Basically my shoulder was smashed to pieces,” he said. “That was the most pain I’ve ever been in. I taped it up as best as I could, but it was definitely the longest hour-and-a-half race I’ve ever done.
“I was just sitting there counting the laps down and counting every pothole you hit. But I was in contention for the series, so I figured I go out there and do my best.”
Fast-forward 12 months and the Massachusetts rider is in similar straits. Midway through last week’s Hyde Park Blast in Cincinnati, Keough took a serious spill.
“Hyde Park is a pretty tight course, and coming up the hill someone went down and I had nowhere to go,” said Keough. “It was pretty slow and I went to reach for the grass to have a nice soft landing. But I didn’t make it and I hit the pavement full force with my left hand and pretty much instantly knew that I did something serious to my left wrist.”
Despite being in a good deal of pain, Keough decided to finish the race. He was just 20 points away from taking the orange leader’s jersey from Oscar Clark (UnitedHealthcare of Georgia-The 706 Project), and not finishing meant possibly being unable to defend his 2011 title. So he put it in the big ring and avoided getting out of the saddle for the rest of the race.
Since a 12-man break had served as a launching pad for eventual winner Jamey Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) to lap the field, all Keough had to do was keep an eye out for Clark.
“It was hard to stay in, but I knew I was up in the standings, so I figured I had to finish,” he said.
Despite his injury, Keough took second in the field sprint, good enough for 14th on the day. As soon as he finished, he headed straight for the hospital to be examined. He wouldn’t know that he had gotten the leader’s jersey by just five points until the following day.
Keough went home with his fractured wrist in a splint and has not been able to ride his bike this week. He’s spent that time mostly doing whatever he can do to accelerate the healing process. With the 2012 Iron Hill crit staring him down, he knows he’s probably in for another tough ride.
“At first they wanted to put a cast on it, but I told them that wouldn’t be happening because it would be too hard to race on it. But on Monday I went home and (saw) an orthopedic doctor that I know personally who made up a good splint for me,” he said.
“Hopefully it will be enough to get me through the race this weekend. But it’s going to hurt no matter what.”
The Iron Hill Twilight, in its eighth year, is a 90-minute, 60km race around a four-corner course and draws a fairly sizable crowd each year to West Chester, Pennsylvania. Last year’s winner was Joe Schmalz (Elbowz).
It will be followed a week later by the Exergy Twilight Criterium in Boise. And then Keough and the rest of the USA CRITS-focused squads will have a good long stretch of time to heal until the Tour of Vail, this year’s final event, on September 30.
Apart from nursing himself back to health, Keough has spent a fair amount of time keeping up with the Tour de France, where plenty of riders are suffering through some post-crash pain of their own.
“It definitely gives you more respect when you see those guys riding big races all bandaged up. It adds a whole other dimension to racing,” Keough said. “Obviously you’re pedaling hard enough, but when your mind is thinking about shutting down just from the pain, it’s hard to keep going.”