Is Ineos Grenadiers suddenly one of the best teams in the classics? It sure looks like it

Ineos Grenadiers delivers another stunning classics win as Magnus Sheffield powers to victory at Brabantse Pijl.

Photo: Jan De Meuleneir / Photo News

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For a team that dominated grand tour racing for a decade, Ineos Grenadiers is suddenly a force in the northern classics.

With Magnus Sheffield blazing to victory Wednesday at Brabantse Pijl, the UK super-team is on an unprecedented roll in the northern classics.

The peloton’s richest team used to vacuum up yellow jerseys and GC titles, but thanks to a bevy of young and talented riders coupled with some experienced veteran pros, it’s finding newfound success in the rough-hewn roads of northern Europe.

“We’ve got a young team, and with good morale,” said Tom Pidcock, one of the jewels of Ineos’s new bench of riders. “We were keeping it together today as long as possible to play the tactics. We need to lose a few races so we don’t get too confident.”

Also read: With Brabantse Pijl, Magnus Sheffield first American winner of northern classic

For much of the past decade, either rightly or wrongly, Ineos Grenadiers and its former iteration as Team Sky was often criticized for what some said was a singular obsession with stage racing and the Tour de France at the expense of one-day classics.

The team, however, won its fair share of big races over the years, with victories at such major races as Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the Amstel Gold Race, among others.

Yet it was the team’s unprecedented run of seven yellow jerseys in eight years that everyone fixated on.

Investment in youth paying off in the spring classics

Sheffield celebrates another big win for Ineos Grenadiers in the classics. (Photo: JASPER JACOBS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

The team’s perceived sudden overnight success in the one-days, however, is years in the making.

Team boss Dave Brailsford started recruiting a bunch of young, talented riders over the past few seasons. With former standard-bearers such as Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas easing out of the frame, Brailsford and Co. put money into the future.

It signed such hitters as Pidcock, Sheffield, Ben Turner, Luke Plapp, and Ben Tullett, who took his first pro win at Coppi e Bartali last month.

Also read: Magnus Sheffield quickly applying lessons in rookie season

That investment is quickly paying dividends across the calendar. Ineos Grenadiers already boasts 17 wins on 2022, pushing it among the top-3 among the WorldTour.

Of the team’s winners so far this season, only Michał Kwiatkowski and Elia Viviani are older than 30. The rest of the wins are the fruit from the team’s recruitment efforts, with younger riders stepping up and delivering.

Pidcock, Sheffield, and the rest of the often under-estimated Ineos classics crew are emerging as one of the top teams so far this spring.

The team won Amstel Gold Race on Sunday with Kwiatkowski, hit second at Tour of Flanders with Dylan van Baarle, and third with Pidcock at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Add strong support riders from WorldTour rookie Ben Turner, who hit fourth Wednesday behind Sheffield, and Ineos is suddenly a team to contend with.

“It’s really incredible for the team,” said Sheffield, who soloed home to become the first U.S. rider to win Brabantse Pijl. “We’re a really young team. I think today was almost had a U-23 team. We can carry momentum into Sunday at Paris-Roubaix. No way are we the favorites, but we are a young and motivated team for Sunday.”

With team captain Egan Bernal still recovering from his horrific training crash in January, and many others on the team being hit by illness and other health issues, the young and the brave are carrying team colors across the bumpy roads of Belgium, northern France, and the Netherlands.

With many of the team’s core riders 25 or younger and with a special focus on the one-day classics, no one can accuse Ineos Grenadiers of being “only” a Tour de France team anymore.

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