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There are always hints at where the top junior riders will be heading. Consider August's bike, for example
US sensation AJ August linked to Ineos: ‘He’s Remco, but probably with more power’
American 17-year-old turns down Axel Merckx for an immediate WorldTour future
Junior Writer - North America
AJ August has turned down the chance to race for Axel Merckx’s development team with the aim of joining the WorldTour in 2024.
The 17-year-old American has courted interest from WorldTour teams all year and GCN understands that a move to Ineos Grenadiers is close but not yet signed.
Merckx, who runs the Hagens Berman Axeon development team recently announced that Bradley Wiggins’s son Ben Wiggins would join his team for next year. The Hagens Berman Axeon team has developed a huge number of U23 talents over the years including Taylor Phinney, Tao Geohegan Hart, Jasper Philipsen and Joäo Almeida.
August informed Merckx of his decision in the last few weeks.
“He’s not coming to us and I suspect that he’s coming to the WorldTour,” Merckx told GCN late on Tuesday evening. “I have a space now and I’m currently looking for one more rider to fill the roster. There are still riders around and this will be the last rider.”
August currently races for Hot Tubes Cycling. The Axeon plan had been for August to race one year with the development team in 2024. A hugely multi-disciplined rider, August has enjoyed a breakout year with wins in Koppencross and U.S. cyclo-cross nationals.
Ineos would not comment when approached by GCN.
The British WorldTour team has not announced any new riders yet for 2024 and has roughly 15 riders currently contracted for the coming season. A number of athletes are expected to sign contract extensions, including Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Carlos Rodriguez.
However a raft of GC riders are set to leave with Tao Geohagen Hart, Dani Martinez, Pavel Sivakov and Ben Tulett all confirmed as departures.
Grand Tour potential and a Vo2 max of 92
Courtesy of Toby Stanton
AJ August leading a peloton of domestic pros as a junior
While nothing is confirmed between Ineos Grenadiers and AJ August, there are plenty of signs of an impending contract.
First and foremost, August did attend an Ineos training camp at the start of the year and is a close friend of Ineos Grenadiers rider Magnus Sheffield. The riders both came from the same town of Pittsford, New York, and are both from the same junior program, Hot Tubes Cycling.
Hot Tubes has been one of the premier junior cycling programs in the United States for the last couple of decades. While Aveon Hagens Berman has been the talent factory on the U23 level, Hot Tubes was the home for many of the riders who would then graduate to Axel Merckx’s squad.
Hot Tubes alumni include the likes of Ben King, Lawson Craddock, Matteo Jorgenson, as well as Sheffield.
In a conversation with GCN this summer, the team’s principle and founder, Toby Stanton said that despite the team’s illustrious alumni, August was by far the most talented.
“I have had my team for 32 years and he is the most talented rider I have had or seen,” Stanton told GCN.
“We do testing on this climb called Brasstown Bald and Magnus [Sheffield] was a minute faster than Nathan Brown, Ian Boswell and Ben King. Then Phil Gaimon went out and cherry picked it.
“But AJ August went up there after 45 miles of training and rode 13:51, faster than Gaimon and a minute faster than Magnus. AJ, at 127 pounds averaged 398 watts. That is 7.2 watts per kilo.”
Editors note: if that breakdown is true, the watts per kilo would sit at 6.91 and not 7.2. GCN reached out to Stanton who reaffirmed that August has been tested at 7.2 watts per kilo but couldn't specify the exact time or place.
The top ten of Brasstown Bald. Hot Tubes has been testing in Georgia for longer than Strava has been recording, thus their effort is different and the time of the climb is different
While Toby Stanton did not confirm the move to Ineos back during the conversation in July, he did shine some light on the connection that had already been established between August and Ineos Grenadiers, including an eye-watering score on a physiological test at the Ineos camp.
“He went and did an Ineos training camp in Mallorca this January and they did some testing on him and Vo2 test on him and he was 92. They said that they didn't have anyone that could do what he could do.”
“He is Remco, but probably with more power.”
At the UCI World Championships, August was hampered by a bout of illness that hit him right before the road race, which he did not start, and out of contention in the time trial. Nevertheless, in the other big international races August was one of the top contenders, with victories and podiums throughout the season.
Additional reporting from Daniel Benson.
Junior Writer - North America
Logan Jones-Wilkins is GCN’s North American junior writer. From Denver, Colorado, he covers North American and European cycling for the website.