“Have to admit that one stings,” Magnus Sheffield stated on his Instagram feed two days after he came up three seconds short of his first elite men’s national title in the time trial at USA Cycling Pro Road Championships. He congratulated his main competitor, Lawson Craddock (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), who erased an early deficit to the Ineos Grenadiers rookie and repeated as the time trial national champion.
Sheffield then reloaded his solo Ineos Grenadiers arsenal for a full attack in the road race on Sunday. He was part of an aggressive group of chasers which caught a dangerous breakaway on the 17th and final lap of a 10.7km circuit. While Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health) broke free in the final four kilometres for the victory, Sheffield outdueled current and former WorldTour riders, such as Craddock, Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost), Ben King and Chad Haga (Human Powered Health), to claim the bronze.
Two races and two medals are a good haul. Last year riding for Rally Cycling he was sixth in the elite time trial and 16th in the road race. This time around Sheffield had bigger goals.
“I’m happy. I made a big improvement and step up from last year. Obviously, I came here to win. Every race I line up to I want to win, and when it's less than that it's disappointing,” Sheffield told Cyclingnews.
“But I ultimately can't beat myself up on that since this is only my second year professionally and so I'm very happy to finish on the podium and hope for more in the future.”
Sheffield signed a two-year contract with the WorldTour British squad last fall. He wasted no time in acclimating, winning a stage of Vuelta a Andalucia ruta Ciclista del Sol in February and then taking his biggest career victory so far at Brabantse Pijl.
“I’ve been fortunate, the Ineos team has really supported me well so far this season. I’ve had a programme that included the Classics. I got to do a lot of the big races and be on a team that won quite a few of them, Roubaix, a podium at Tour of Flanders, a podium at Tours, Amstel. I was really happy I got to be a part of it.”
On the track as an 18-year-old, Sheffield set a world junior record in the 3km individual pursuit in Colorado Springs. He scored a bronze medal at the 2019 junior world championships on the road, a year after he won two junior national titles, one on the road in the time trial and on the dirt in cyclo-cross.
At Rally Cycling, he worked on his time trial position in a wind tunnel. Now at Ineos, he said he is surrounded by role models. One of his mentors is the favourite to win the opening time trial in Copenhagen of the Tour de France, Filippo Ganna.
“All the guys, honestly [have been role models]. Filippo Ganna is a big one. Geraint Thomas, Elia Viviani. And Carapaz I did a stage race with. The list just goes on. And Kwiato [Michal Kwiatkowski] is also a big role model and someone I've looked up to from a young age. It feels quite strange to now consider him my colleague, and also actually a true friend. I feel very fortunate,” Sheffield told Cyclingnews about his new family at Ineos.
“These are the guys I looked up to when I got into cycling, and now they are my close friends that I spend most of my time with. I spend most of my time with Cam Wurf. He's a veteran.
“So we have a really good environment and I feel extremely lucky to be part of such a supportive team. I feel like I really fit well with the team and the mission and values of the team. I couldn't be happier.”
Riding at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships was one of his goals for 2022, but as the lone US rider on the team and travelling from Europe it was an extra effort. The last race he did was the ZLM Tour in the Netherlands, then he went to his training base in Andorra and travelled to the US for the time trial.
“I didn’t have too much time, but I was really fortunate that the team allowed me to come over here and take a step from the European programme to race back on home soil in the US.”
Gleening from Ganna
The first box to check was having the Pro Cycling Foundation provide assistance with logistics, including use of a mechanic and soigneur. The second advantage for a solo rider was having time trial World Champion Ganna as a teammate.
"Filippo, he's a master of the art when it comes to time trialling. He won the Italian national championship the day before too,” Sheffield said with an easy smile, noting his teammates haul of a third title.
“The biggest thing I have taken away is his preparation and how he is able to execute a plan, especially with the amount of resources the team has to offer us. He's extremely calm and cool. It's a cliche, but he's calm, cool and collected. He's the epitome of that.
“Also, the way he is able to corner on the time trial bike is something I have really been able to pick up. I try to gleen as much as possible from it.”
He also had told Cyclingnews in the past that he is good at remembering turns and lines. That knowledge and Ganna’s lessons helped him create drama in the elite men’s time trial last week, as he scorched the full 34.9km route, the same course as 2021 with many technical corners, with a full 1:47 advantage over George Simpson (Project Echelon Racing). His time of 40:43 was 50.7 seconds faster than the winning time of last year’s winner Craddock.
However, Craddock was back as the last man on the course, and blistered his winning time from a year ago by over a minute, and in the process eclipsed the 20-year-old by just three seconds to repeat as champion, leaving Sheffield with a silver medal.
“It’s a big travel to come over here to the US, but I’m really lucky that my team helped support me in letting me come over here. Yeah, I really hope to return next year to try to take the jersey.”
He returned to Europe the day after the US championships concluded to prepare for stage races with Ineos, hoping to be part of the Tour of Poland, July 30-August 5. He also hopes to make the US selection for the World Championships in Australia.
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