Ineos: “AJ August is here because he ticks a lot of boxes”

by Peter Cossins

Words by Peter Cossins | Photo by

Ineos Grenadiers coach Dario Cioni tells RadioCycling why the British team have brought in the precocious American, their youngest signing ever

Change is in the air amidst the Ineos Grenadiers. Most of it has been planned, although the sudden and very unexpected departure of team deputy principal Rod Ellingworth doesn’t seem to have been. On the riding side, there’s been a significant exodus of stage racing talent as Tao Geoghegan-Hart, Pavel Sivakov, Dani Martínez, Ben Tulett and Luke Plapp have all moved in. There’s yet been a comparable arrival of talent, with 2022 world time trial champion Tobias Foss the only signing in that same class – although you could argue that Carlos Rodríguez amounted to a signing too given he was heading out of the exit door and towards Movistar before Ineos opted to reverse their decision to release him.

The only other arrival hitherto is new professional Andrew “AJ” August, who turned 18 on the 12th of last month, which was the day he completed his medical that confirmed his move to Ineos. The teenager from New York state was in high demand thanks to his results over the last three years with the Hot Tubes junior racing team and in the colours of the US national team. August impressed in the 2022 season, when his standout result was victory in the Junior Tour of Ireland, then blazed a trail through 2023, winning the US national junior TT title, the Ain Bugey Valromey stage race in the French Jura where his two summit wins included one on the fearsome Grand Colombier, and the US junior cyclo-cross crown. There were stage wins aplenty too.

“For the first year, the main thing for AJ is to start learning the basics while getting some experience of racing under his belt. I don’t think we need to chase results in the first year – it’s more about building the foundations.”

Dario Cioni

Hot Tubes team manager Toby Stanton didn’t hold back when he spoke to GCN Cycling about his young charge, describing August as the biggest talent he’d seen in 32 years with his team, which has previously produced Lawson Craddock, Ian Boswell, Matteo Jorgenson and Ineos’s Magnus Sheffield, who August has said is his “greatest inspiration”. “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,” Stanton told GCN. “He is Remco, but probably with more power.”

In the latest episode of the RadioCycling podcast, there’s an interview with Ineos team coach Dario Cioni, who’s been following August’s progress over recent seasons and details why they were so keen to sign the young American and what they are expecting from him, both in the short-term next season and beyond that. Cioni reveals that Ineos have had a long and fruitful relationship with Toby Stanton. “Firstly, because I think he’s a really good guy. I like the way he runs the team. And I think he really sets up quality riders for the future. We’ve had a really good experience with Magnus, who came from his team. And then we were in contact again over a couple of riders because we he also has Artem Schmidt. He was invited to our camps also. But, at the end of the day, AJ looks like the guy that ticked a lot of boxes,” Cioni explains.

The Ineos coach reveals that he went to Spain’s Vuelta Junior a la Ribera Duero in August 2022 to meet August and Stanton with the double intention of getting to know the pair better and hoping to gain an edge on the other teams who were vying for August’s signature. That, in turn, led to the American prospect participating in Ineos’s pre-season training camp in Majorca in January of this year.

It was during that camp that August underwent physiological testing and, according to Stanton, recorded a VO2 max of 92, the same exceptional figure attributed to the last American Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, as well as to Spanish trail-running legend Kilian Jornet. Cioni admits to RadioCycling that he can’t recall the precise figure August recorded. “I’ve only seen that on the internet,” says the Italian. “The one we did with him wasn’t as high, but it was still pretty impressive… in the high 80s.”

Of course, great test results don’t necessarily lead to great race results, and Cioni is quick to point this out. He then goes on to explain Ineos’s plan for August in 2024. “For the first year, the main thing for him is to start learning the basics while getting some experience of racing under his belt. I don’t think we need to chase results in the first year – it’s more about building the foundations,” says Cioni, who adds that the American won’t be doing any cyclo-cross racing over this winter.

“In the future he will maybe change, but I think in his first year he wanted to concentrate fully on the road,” the Italian coach explains. “We’re still working on the schedule for the riders, so at this moment we can’t really say what he’ll be riding, but we’ll try to give him a bit of a mix of races, with probably more racing in the second half of the season… We’d prefer to go a bit easier with the race programme in the first part of the season. He’s got many years still to explore racing, so we’re quite careful on setting him up properly at the beginning.”

You can hear the full interview with Dario Cioni at RadioCycling. The current episode also features the latest development in the One Cycling project intended to reshape the men’s side of the sport, an interview with the Algerian rider who won more races than Remco Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard this season, and the story of how a virtually unknown Uzbek team made canny use of the UCI points system to get a place in next year’s Tour de France Femmes and Giro Donne.

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