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Jackie Tyson

US teenager AJ August misses time cut, confirms Paris-Roubaix as beauty and beast

ROUBAIX FRANCE APRIL 07 Andrew August of The United States and Team INEOS Grenadiers competes passing through the Capelle Ruesnes cobblestones sector during the 121st ParisRoubaix 2024 a 2597km one day race from Compiegne to Roubaix UCIWT on April 07 2024 in Roubaix France Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images.

Andrew “AJ” August (Ineos Grenadiers) did make it to the velodrome to conclude his inaugural ride at Paris-Roubaix, and he made the record books, but it was not a number he had on the radar. The now-youngest rider of Paris-Roubaix came up short of an official time by just one minute and 31 seconds after 260km of racing. A tough day at his new office.

At the age of 18 years and 178 days, August did notch a mention of notoriety as the youngest competitor in the men’s elite field. Last year his teammate Josh Tarling broke the record as the youngest man to ride the crushing cobbles which had stood for 86 years, with Paul Botquint setting the mark in 1937 at 19 years and 53 days. Tarling, now 20, was just 16 days younger than Botquint, but August lowered the bar by another 224 days.

August finished the race, but also like Tarling a year ago, he was outside the time limit and did not record an official finish. August completed his effort 27 minutes, 35 seconds off the winning pace of solo winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceninck), which was 1:31 outside the 8% margin set to meet the time limit. 

“First of all, I'm really proud to make it to the Velodrome. Yeah, I guess in the first portion of the race, I tried to help the guys out as much as I could. And then just from there, the goal was just make it to the end,” August told several members of the media after the race. 

“Setting a goal for myself, I just didn't want to sell myself short. So I just pushed on, yeah. Can’t get much harder than Roubaix, I think.”

He has been on big stages before from successful outings in cyclocross, winning the US men’s junior national title and winning a cobbled trophy at Koppenbergcross. From his perspective in the peloton, August confirmed that Paris-Roubaix was both beauty and beast for a one-day road race. 

“I mean, with all the spectators, and that way it's most beautiful for me so far. But also, getting your hands battered for 260k? I don't think you would say is beautiful,” August said about his first ride at Hell of the North.

This year Tarling did not find much beauty on the dry, dusty day as he was disqualified with 130km to go for taking a tow from the team car to rejoin a lead group of 30 riders after stopping for a bike change. The team was told by race commissaires for the young rider to drop back as a motorbike official had seen a ‘sticky bottle’ pull and acceleration to launch Tarling back into the race action.

Teammate Tom Pidcock was a late addition to the squad and he bunny-hopped his way over treacherous cobbles to finish 6:20 off the winning pace of in 17th place, the best finish for an Ineos rider. He had been slated to ride Itzulia Basque Country, which concluded April 6, but missed the race due to a recon crash before the opening stage, which allowed him to rest and regroup for Paris-Roubaix. 

“In the recon, to be honest, I was really suffering on them [cobbles]. But I think in the race, you're riding them a bit faster, well a lot faster actually, and it makes it quite a bit easier.”

August moved to the WorldTour this year as a teenager on a three-year contract with Ineos Grenadiers, where he joins fellow upstate New Yorker Magnus Sheffield. After August won Kopperbergcross in December 2022, becoming the first US male cyclocross athlete to win at the iconic cyclocross event, he continued his success on the road for the Hot Tubes development team for 2023. He had a stage win and overall podium at the Redlands Bicycle Classic as well as two summit stage wins and a GC title at Ain Bugey Valromey Tour in France.

“Of course, it's been a big change, like living on my own. And I haven't seen my family since the new year. So it was good to see them,” he said about having relatives make the trip from the US to see him race Paris-Roubaix. 

When asked if he looked forward to a return to the famous cobbled Classic, where he could record an official time and perhaps play a major role for his team. It was a short answer: “I’ll wait to think about that for some time”.

With a Monument done and dusted, August has no time think about a return to Paris-Roubaix or to rest. He will be part of the Ineos squad for much different terrain next week for Tour of the Alps. It will be his second stage race of the year, having completed UAE Tour in support of a top-10 finish for Brandon Rivera.

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