Andrew “AJ” August is back in the US after an eventful few weeks in Europe, from turning heads at a road training camp with Ineos Grenadiers to catching attention with his shredded Team USA kit while racing at the Cyclocross World Championships.
At the start line at the stacked junior men’s championship event in Hoogerheide, August was one of the favourites to grab the rainbow jersey. After all, he scored a momentous victory at Koppenbergcross in November, a first for any US male rider. Next, he won the junior men’s title at the US Cyclocross National Championships. Prior to the Worlds, he went four-for-four in European ‘cross races, including a fourth-place finish at Benidorm World Cup.
The Hoogerheide appearance would mark his final ‘cross race as a junior, so all signals appeared to be green for ‘go’. So much for well-laid plans. A huge crash at the start of the race changed everything.
“It was a strange crash. I had gotten off to a pretty good start, but shortly after the start, I pulled out of my pedal. Because of this, the rider behind me overlapped my rear wheel, and he began to crash, and his weight fell on my rear wheel. This sent me across the course, and from there, many others piled on top,” he explained to Cyclingnews.
The massive pile-up left a huge chunk of the 72-rider field in full-on chase the entire race, including August and his five US teammates. With much of his kit missing after the hard crash and scrapes exposed, the 17-year-old unleashed a furious attack on the course with some of the fastest lap times. In his pursuit to make up the gap of one minute and 38 seconds to eventual winner Léo Bisiaux of France, August put in the fastest time on the second lap and again on the sixth lap. But with just seven laps, he ran out of turf and time.
“I knew that I was setting fast laps,” the upstate New York native said. “I came through the finish every lap, and I saw that the gap to the leader was holding pretty steady. At that point in the race, I knew I was out of contention, but I just wanted to keep fighting.”
He finished 1:41 behind Bisiaux, 22nd overall, just behind David Thompson in 16th, Magnus White in 20th and Miles Mattern in 21st, while Dan English was the best of the bunch in 13th, and Ben Stokes crossed the line in 29th. It was a disappointing end to his ‘cross campaign since he finished fifth in the junior race the year before and was in top form.
“Race done. I’m moving on,” is what August…
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