Magnus Sheffield: From the sidelines to the Ineos Grenadiers supersquad
American supertalent Sheffield emerged from two lost seasons with a three-year contract with the world's biggest team.
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Magnus Sheffield is steadily progressing through a series of incrementally huge moments in his young career.
He started with a world junior road bronze medal in 2019, added a junior individual pursuit record one year later, and a further 12 months down the line, Sheffield signed a mammoth three-year deal with grand tour super-squad Ineos Grenadiers.
A product of the U.S. development system and a key wingman of Quinn Simmons in his ride to the rainbow jersey at the Yorkshire worlds, Sheffield will step into the WorldTour in 2022 at just 19 years old. It’s a story made all the more spectacular by the fact that he has seen a threadbare race schedule for the past two years.
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VeloNews spoke with the New Yorker about the story behind the Ineos deal, his ambitions on the road, and his Olympic dreams just the day before he flew out to Europe to begin a new chapter living in Spain and racing with the biggest team in the world.
Sheffield felt the brunt of the COVID lockdown more than some. Still racing in the American junior ranks in 2020, the pandemic robbed him – and the wider U.S. scene – of racing. Then after stepping up to Rally this past year, the New Yorker found himself stalking the sidelines and accumulating just 20 race days with the American squad.
However, despite the racing dearth, Sheffield had already done the work required to land at one of the top teams in the world.
When Sheffield’s time with Rally came to a premature close, several teams came calling, but he had ears for only one.
I’ve had communication with Ineos since the Yorkshire worlds in 2019. But back then, there wasn’t an opportunity for me to join the team, at the end of my last year as a junior and right at the start of COVID.
When I left Rally in August, then there was an opportunity for me to join the team. There was a door that opened and that was the team that I had always wanted to be a part of from the beginning. That’s where I saw myself five years from when I turned pro and, that’s where I saw myself eventually going.
It just happened to be I was fortunate enough that there’s an opportunity for me to join the team next year and they want to invest and develop some new young riders, and I fit that profile.
I’m super pumped – I’m really excited for this new beginning.
Despite spending eight months with Rally this season, Sheffield has not yet started a WorldTour race and has competed only four times in the past six months. A three-year deal and relaxed approach from Ineos Grenadiers will give Sheffield the chance to find his feet in 2022.
I didn’t race much with Rally so I still have some catch-up to do, racing-wise.
It was frustrating this past season I didn’t get as many racing opportunities as I thought I would or that were scheduled. It almost felt like two years of COVID for me. But once I knew what these next three years were going to look like for me [with Ineos] it made me even more motivated.
So I think this first year is going to really be just about adjusting to the level of races because they are 200-plus kilometers. I know I have the ability, it’s just now about getting the experience at that level – I know I can be competitive, or else I wouldn’t have made the jump.
I think the off-the-bike element and heavier schedule will be the most difficult. It’s almost like going from a part-time job to a full-time job. So it’s really about kind of figuring out what works best for me and finding that balance when I’m not on the bike because that’s half the battle.
For the first year, there’s not a lot of pressure from the team in terms of expectations – it’s mostly just giving me opportunities and getting experience at the high-level races and adjusting, seeing how the team operates and being there for my teammates. And then in the following years – because it’s a three-year deal – that’s where I think I can really then use that experience to try to succeed.
Ineos Grenadiers is at a pivot point in its illustrious history. The team has failed to win the Tour de France for two consecutive years after previously holding the yellow jersey in a vice-grip and now has to figure out how to beat grand tour powerhouses Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar.
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The new season will see a shakeup in the staffroom and a swathe of young talents coming into the race team.
The teenage Sheffield will join Ben Turner, 22, and 20-year-olds Luke Plapp and Ben Tulett as a new face in a squad already boasting Gen-Z sensations Tom Pidcock and Ethan Hayter.
When you saw ‘Froomey’ leave a couple of years ago and then Tadej [Pogačar] won the Tour two years in a row, there’s obviously been a change in the way things are.
The team continuously has to adapt and change, and you now see that investing in the young riders, and will definitely pay off in three, four, or five years. You can just see that they want to invest in youth and that’s a big priority.
But then there are still some older guys on the team, and it’s really cool to be able to share that experience they have.
The success Ethan and Pidcock had makes it much easier to trust the system, much easier to buy into something and believe in it. And that makes it easier to put in the hard work. The team has made a really good environment for success, especially for the young guys – Ethan had an incredible year this past year, and Tom as well.
I think it’ll only be more successful this upcoming year. And I can’t wait to be part of it.
It wasn’t just Ineos Grenadiers’ pivot toward youth development that made them the perfect match for Sheffield.
The team has also committed to supporting newly signed track veteran Elia Viviani as he rides toward the Paris Olympics. Olympic medalist Hayter and track sensation Filippo Ganna both also have far-reaching velodrome dreams.
Because the team originated from British Cycling or evolved from it, they really have a core belief in supporting Olympic and track ambition, even though you don’t wear the team colors. And so they’re willing to support and give opportunity for us to go and do that with our national federations.
And that’s definitely something that I’m interested in, and that I’ve committed to doing with the U.S. team, the team pursuit for Paris. And I also hope to be able to do some of the World Cups this season as well. I’d really be interested in doing the Madison and omnium as well since the individual pursuit isn’t an Olympic race anymore.
That track focus is also a reason why I joined the team.