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Magnus Sheffield takes aim at Europe after breaking junior pursuit world record

Magnus Sheffield
Magnus Sheffield (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Eighteen-year-old Magnus Sheffield shaved over three seconds off the Junior world record for the 3km individual pursuit on November 19 and now the young American has set his sights on conquering Europe, with the 4km pursuit, UCI Hour Record, and a season of road racing on his bucket list for the future.

The UCI Hour Record is one for the long-term but, with the Track World Championships on the 2020 horizon and a two-year contract with Rally Cycling already signed, Sheffield will enjoy a quick turnaround during the off-season before making his way to Girona, Spain in the new year.

A day after setting a time of 3:06.447 for 3,000m at the Olympic track in Colorado Springs, the young American spoke to Cyclingnews about his record-breaking time and the reason he chose to focus on the target during the winter.

"I’m pretty tired. I spent most of last night packing up all my things because I’ve spent the last four months living in the Olympic Centre. So I didn’t get much sleep and I’ve been coughing up a fair bit," Sheffield told Cyclingnews over the phone.

"The planning started about a year out but it was finalized once the World Championships were canceled for juniors. I sat down with my coach and we devised a plan on how to move forward. I’d trained so hard this past year and I just wanted to put something down for the season that I could really look back on. I’d worked so hard in training this year and I was incredibly disappointed when the Worlds were canceled so close to the event."

The last American to hold the junior 3km record was Taylor Phinney, and Sheffield admitted that the retired rider had been an inspiration. 

"It means a lot because Taylor was an incredible rider and he was the pinnacle of American cycling for the guys 10 years ago. He was one of the first riders to come through the Bontrager team and win a stage in the Giro. I know I went 10 seconds faster than him but the technology has changed a lot and it just shows where cycling is going in the US, and how competitive the up and coming riders are.

"Three months ago if you’d asked me what time I could have done, I would have told you that I might barely scrape under Phinney's record. But I did a lot of simulations in training and I went a second faster than Phinney's time and that served as a huge confidence boost. I felt confident that I could smash the record about a week or so out because I was still working on my technique and pacing strategy."

With the 3km record under his belt, the future Rally rider is hoping to step up and rival the elite men on the track in the future, and the 4km record – currently held by Ineos' Filippo Ganna (4:01.934) – is a possible target. Like Phinney, Ganna is another inspiration for Sheffield.

"I felt that this was something I was capable of doing, even though I had no real experience with it. But it was something that really interested me. It meant thinking outside of the box but now that I’ve done it I really want to keep riding on the track. I want to try and focus on the 4K and then maybe the Hour Record later in my career," he said.

"Another person I look up to is Ganna because you can see what he did on the track and now he’s winning in Grand Tours. He’s an 80kg rider so when you see him winning stages in the Giro with more than 5,000m of climbing I think it’s pretty inspirational for a guy like me. So I really see the time spent on the track as money in the bank in terms of the experience that I’ve gained, especially with the coaches that I’ve worked with. Gary Sutton has been a huge help. I was training with the women’s team pursuit team and obviously, Chloe Dygert wasn’t there but I was able to work with all her teammates. It was a really unique experience and one that I really enjoyed."

Having signed a two-year deal with Rally Cycling before his record attempt, Sheffield will head to Europe in the new year and mix his track plans with his road ambitions. He has never been away from the United States for more than a couple of months but, with school studies postponed for a season, the 18-year-old has the opportunity to immerse himself in a new culture and pick up experience from the riders around him.

"My plan is to take a year off school and really focus on cycling for the next year. I’ll move to Europe full time and settle there with the new team. Rally will be very supportive of the track side, and many of the women on the team also ride on the track programme," he said.

"I’ll be in Girona. I’ve never been there before but I’ll be living with an old teammate. I’ll move in January or February and then do some 1.1 and 2.1 races. Then I’ll do the U23 cobbled Classics and then after that, it will be up to Rally as to where they want to race me. I hope to get some experience in some of the 2.HC stage races but we’ll just have to see what the situation is like with COVID. There’s also a Nations Cup even in April in England and I’ll be interested in doing the 4km pursuit there. 

"My main goal after that will be the World Championships, which take place in Flanders and I think that they suit me really well. I’m just really looking forward to smashing it in the elite ranks."

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