“They represent the best U19s in the U.S. and, based on how we race in Europe, some of the best U19s in the world,” says Toby Stanton, who founded and runs the U.S.’s top junior development team. These young men are fresh off a three-week block of racing in Europe, focusing on this weekend's Junior Road Cycling National Championships in Roanoke, Virginia, planning for July’s Junior Tour of Ireland—one of the biggest international U19 races—and aspiring to race Junior World Championships in Wollongong, Australia in September.
We caught up with teammates AJ August (age 16, from Pittsford, N.Y.), Brockton Smith (17, Beaumont, California) and Artem Shmidt (18, Atlanta, Georgia) to learn about their highlights and ambitions for the summer.
[Photo] AJ August, 16, of Pittsford, N.Y., leads the blue train.
JULBO: Tell me about a highlight of your season thus far. What was it and what made it a highlight?
AJ AUGUST: Europe was a highlight, specifically the last race we did, Omloop Der 3 Provinces. Me and Artem were able to get in the final selection together at a really hard race. (Editor’s Note: Artem placed second, and AJ placed fifth.)
JULBO: That was the race where you won the team overall, correct?
TOBY STANTON: Yeah. That’s something that people don't talk about or look at. It's really important because any team can have one great rider any particular year, but the team prize means that everybody is good. I don't keep a whole lot of trophies—we've won a lot over the last 32 years—but the ones that I keep are the team GC.
JULBO: Brockton, how about you for a highlight of season?
BROCKTON SMITH: I'd say the Redlands Classic. It's one of the bigger stage races in the U.S., and I live here, so it was really important for me to do well. I had a top 10 overall until the last day. It was surreal racing here because I ride these roads every day. It was really cool.
ARTEM SHMIDT: My highlight of the season has been getting third at Three Days of Axel, a stage race in the Netherlands.
JULBO: Talk to me about a challenging point of the season, a low you've had to overcome or something that just didn’t go right.
BROCKTON SMITH: Probably the Europe trip for me—I spent a little too much time on the ground, which is frustrating.
AJ AUGUST: For me I'd probably actually say Redlands, which is the opposite of Brockton. It was just a tough race for me. I wasn't in great shape. But then I was able to bounce back with a good European trip a few weeks later.
ARTEM SHMIDT: In Europe, we had some problems with my TT bike. We got it two days before an important race at Axel, and I’d not been focused on that mentally. It was basically my first time riding that TT bike, and it was pretty hard. But I was able to overcome that and get second.
TOBY STANTON: Just to clarify, there were 60 guys in that time trial. It’s Artem’s first time on this TT bike—he gets second; loses by 10 seconds. If that’s your biggest struggle…you know…that’s a first world problem!
JULBO: You guys are in school; you’ve got a lot going on to go to Europe for three weeks at the end of the school year. What does that workload look like, balancing your lives with racing at a pretty darn high level?
AJ AUGUST: I'm in online school right now, so it's nice because I can work around my cycling schedule. It’s not a set time when I have to do my work—I can do it whenever I have free time, which is nice.
BROCKTON SMITH: Same with me. I went online during COVID and continued once everything came back. It's really convenient for trips and training.
[Photo] Brockton Smith, 17, of Beaumont, California is in his first year racing with Hot Tubes.
JULBO: What are your hopes and ambitions for the rest of your season. What’s next?
AJ AUGUST: For me, Nationals is the biggest goal. Then also qualifying for the World Championships team, which goes along with Nationals since Nationals is one of the big selecting races for the World Championships team. Then, also, when we go back to Europe…just being really good there this summer.
BROCKTON SMITH: Same as AJ. Nats is pretty important to me. I'm especially excited for the Junior Tour of Ireland because it just looks like a fun race. For the end of the summer, World Champs is a big goal, but it just depends on how the summer plays out.
ARTEM SHMIDT: Right now, I’m just focusing on Nationals. I’m hoping for some good results and to make the Worlds selection.
JULBO: Talk to me about the value of being part of this team. What does it mean to be spread all across the country but having the opportunity to get together to travel to Europe, to race in the U.S. together, to train independently but work together at races?
BROCKTON SMITH: We all get along really well, and we like to see each other succeed. I also like learning from the guys because everybody has a different perspective.
AJ AUGUST: It’s definitely a really good feeling—not even if you take the individual victory, but if your teammate wins. That feeling for me is sometimes almost greater than personally winning. It's a great feeling when like your work pays off for the team.
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