Magnus Sheffield carries Tour Down Under momentum into spring classics

After top ride at WorldTour opener, Sheffield steels for major run from Strade Bianche to Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Confidence breeds confidence, and a strong start to 2023 bodes well for budding WorldTour star Magnus Sheffield.

Sheffield pedaled through a string of setbacks to close out the Santos Tour Down Under on a high Sunday and will carry momentum back to Europe.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider endured crashes, crosswinds, and a high-profile spat with Michael Matthews all week to hit the podium in the white jersey of the best young rider and fourth overall in his 2023 debut.

“The week was full of highs and lows,” Sheffield said. “I think we can use this momentum for the rest of the season.

“This was my first race when I really tried to stay up there in the WorldTour, and I can be happy with the guys I was going contending with.”

First up is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday, with the team hoping to make an impression to close out its Australian adventure.

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The 20-year-old is coming off his impressive rookie season with three pro wins and confirmed in Australia that it was no fluke.

For 2023, Sheffield is setting the bar even higher, with ambitions to keep winning and to race his first grand tour.

Sheffield confirmed to VeloNews last week a Tour de France debut could be in the cards later this season and said the Santos Tour Down Under is setting the tone for the season.

“I came out here with really big ambitions,” Sheffield said. ” I was able to fight through the crash this entire week. So I think I can be really happy with how the team rode, but also my performance as well.

“I would love to have come home with a win,” he said. “I can be really happy with how I kicked off this season to 2023. And I really hope I can continue with this momentum.”

Setting sights even higher in 2023

Sheffield won the best young rider’s jersey and finished fourth. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

That Sheffield was racing to win the WorldTour opener last week in Australia reveals the depth of his character and the range of his ambitions.

Last year, he won three times, including becoming the first U.S. male to win Brabantse Pijl.

Also read: Tour de France on radar for Sheffield in 2023

His first major goals for 2023 wait on the bergs and cobblestones of Northern Europe. He will be racing in the “opening weekend” in Belgium, and then have a full calendar of racing from Strade Bianche all the way to Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“This race sets the tone going back to Europe, going towards the classics,” Sheffield said. “So I think it also shows I’m still able to climb with these guys. I’m not at my best yet. I think I can be really happy with my form, but it is only January.

“The classics are a big focus for me, especially in the early part of my career.”

‘You have really big shoes to fill’

Sheffield is boldly stepping into the limelight. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Sheffield will see plenty of opportunities to win in 2023.

He’s part of a new wave of young riders elbowing their way into the peloton and the Ineos Grenadiers hierarchy.

Sheffield is showing maturity and depth beyond his years, and he’s calmly stepping into the role as leader on cycling’s richest team.

“On this team, you have really, really big shoes to fill,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve been able to progress quite, quite quickly. And I’m getting more comfortable with kind of a leadership role.

“I came here as a co-leader, but I felt like I was able to carry the weight quite well. And I think I can learn from this and, hopefully, I can continue progressing.”

Also read: Geraint Thomas at retirement crossroads

He said riders like Geraint Thomas and 2022 Paris-Roubaix champion Dylan van Baarle (now on Jumbo-Visma) have helped him find his step into the WorldTour.

“I think I started to learn what it was like to kind of be a leader in Tour of Denmark last year, especially running with guys like ‘G’ or racing the classics with Dylan,” Sheffield said. “I see these guys as role models and I’d say leadership can be stuff off the bike and sometimes it’s the things that you don’t say.”

Sheffield says he’s proud to race in an Ineos Grenadiers jersey and wants to do his part to carry on the team’s winning tradition.

“I think the values the team stands by are also really important,” he said. “So this is something that the team talks also a lot about is the respect to older riders, and just what it means to wear the Ineos jersey. It takes a level of maturity to ride on this team.”

Sheffield travels to Geelong for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday before returning to Europe.

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