Sheffield claims maiden pro road victory for Ineos Grenadiers

OTURA SPAIN FEBRUARY 18 Magnus Sheffield of United States and Team INEOS Grenadiers celebrates winning during the 68th Vuelta A Andalucia Ruta Del Sol 2022 Stage 3 a 1532km stage from Lucena to Otura 68RdS on February 18 2022 in Otura Spain Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Magnus Sheffield (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Nineteen-year-old Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) got his WorldTour career off to a triumphant start on Friday as the American racer notched up an impressive solo triumph in the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol.

After a series of unexpected late attacks saw a group of 30 rides off the front in the closing hour of racing, Sheffield bolted away with a kilometre left to race.

Part of the wave of new young racers Ineos have signed in the last few seasons including Spain's Carlos Rodriguez, also riding at the Ruta, Sheffield's delight after he claimed his first victory for his new team was palpable.

"It's really hard to describe how good this feels," he told a small group of reporters shortly after stepping up to the winner's podium.

"I did so much work in the off season and I had a really tough year last year, so it's great for the confidence. I just really look forward to continuing this journey with the team and I can't thank the guys enough for all their hard work today."

Sheffield said that his strategy had been born both from Ineos Grenadiers' determination to prove this season that the British team is not just about winning the Tour and also on the day from his directors giving him excellent advice in the last few critical kilometres.

"I had Xabi [Zandio] and Oli [Cookson] in my ear all the way and they were saying to throw it down because that's how we've decided to race the season, just all in."

"I knew I couldn't hesitate, especially with the guys being so aggressive behind. I knew they were right behind me but as soon as I had the momentum, it was game over, I thought."

The 19-year-old said the team had realised it was a good finish for the squad's mixture of young riders, but at the same time, they had been racing to keep their GC leader Rodriguez safe.

Unfortunately, as there were several crashes in the finale and both Rodriguez and teammate Jhonathan Narvaez went down, Sheffield reported, but being inside the last three kilometres, their time losses did not count.

"I was able to stay upright and follow some wheels, I think it was [Alexey] Lutsenko (Astana-Qazaqstan) that went and then there was a Bora guy that went too."

"I felt really good, outside of the last kilometre I knew if it stayed as a bunch I wanted to take the last corner first and just try to hold on for as long as possible."

In the bigger scheme of things, Sheffield argued, wins like his demonstrate to the cycling world that Ineos Grenadiers are not only interested in the overalls of stage racing, an objective label that the British team has at times struggled to shift.

"It shows what we're capable of, we're not just a GC team and we're not just here to win the Tour," he said. "We're here to succeed in all these races."

"I want to dedicate this win to my teammates, they rode so hard today. I couldn't be more proud of them. We have a really young team here, also with two older guys, but it's a really good group and I'm really looking forward to racing with them the rest of the week."

After the Ruta del Sol, Sheffield is due to go on to do Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. As he explained, he's done Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem as a junior but the Opening Weekend is another cobbled Classics ball game altogether, so "I'm just going to have to see how it goes."

After Friday's win, though, there can be no doubt Sheffield's morale for the two Belgian one-day events will surely be stronger than ever.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.