UnitedHealthcare’s Luke Keough flared out from the heat of a summer night in Pennsylvania to capture the ninth Iron Hill Twilight Criterium, stop No. 7 of the 2013 USA Crits Championship series.
Keough had been part of a strong breakaway effort that would lap the field midway through the race in West Chester.
“There was a bit of confusion out there when that happened,” Keough said. “Everyone was looking at us to drive it. But I had Brad (White) and Karl (Menzies) there so I didn’t have to do too much at that point.”
Despite heat advisories throughout the area earlier in the day, the effort to derail UnitedHealthcare’s “Blue Train” began early on with a breakaway by Frank Travieso (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis) and Michael Woods (Garneau-Quebecor).
Series leader Carlos Alzate of UHC joined the move, and soon the trio was back in the fold. Rudy Project’s Andreas Graf was next to try with 53 laps to go, but Brendan Housler (Mt. Borah-Minerva Design) led the charge to bring him back.
The situation remained fairly static until just after the mid-race preme when a big group went away, containing 2012 Iron Hill champion Bruno Langois and Mike Chauner (Garneau-Quebecor); Issac Howe and Bobby Lea (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis); Brad White, Luke Keough, Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare); Rafael Meran (CRCA-Foundation); and Graf.
The group initially hesitated about whether to cooperate with one another. But once they established a gap of 45 seconds both White and Howe put their heads down and drove the break right into the back end of the field.
With 27 laps remaining the fate of the race had been set. Not even a sizable crash with 16 laps to go could keep UnitedHealthcare from delivering Keough across the line for the win.
“It wasn’t easy,” Keough said. “In my mind this is the hardest race in the country, but I was riding with a bunch of selfless guys out there and I couldn’t do it without them.”
The overall standings remain unchanged. Keough’s teammates Alzate and Hilton Clarke hang on to first and second respectively, while Shane Kline (Team Smartstop-Mountain Khakis) sits third.
Kline also sits atop the Maxxis Best Young Rider competition, while his teammate Thomas Brown leads the BikeReg Laps Led standings.