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Yet his unofficial designation of the traditional team captain race number to top a race roster hints at just how much Ineos Grenadiers believes in the 19-year-old.
Sheffield shrugged it off Thursday and said he’s strictly in apprentice mode in what’s his second start in an Ineos Grenadiers team kit.
“Cam (Wurf) and Salva (Puccio) are the ones calling the shots on the road,” Sheffield said at the start of the Ruta’s stage 2. “I’m still just soaking everything in.
“It’s just the number the team gave me. It’s more coincidental than anything,” he told VeloNews. “I am just here to support the guys.”
Also read: Magnus Sheffield debuts in Ineos colors
Sheffield is quietly pushing through his opening races since his high-profile move to Ineos Grenadiers last year. The key for any WorldTour rookie is to watch, race, and take lessons to heart.
Magnus Sheffield: ‘I’m really happy with how my season started’
Every new pro faces trial by fire, but so far, Sheffield is taking things in stride. He debuted at the Étoile de Bessèges last month in 31st overall and finished safely in the main pack in Wednesday’s uphill kicker to open Ruta.
“Things are going really well. I am really happy with how my season started at Bèsseges,” he said. “Up next is ‘opening weekend,’ so it’s important to continue progressing with my fitness and being able to support the guys in the race.”
Sheffield is getting his first up-close view of the likes of Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke, two hulking riders who will be factors in the spring classics.
“I will go straight to Belgium to do some recon,” he said, confirming he will race both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. “After that, I am not quite sure. We’ll see how everything goes at opening weekend, and we’ll take it from there.
“You see some of the other guys leading into the classics, like Van Avermaet. This is a really hard race, and it’s one of the highest [in terms of] numbers of accumulated vertical meters, so it’s a perfect race for me to build my early season fitness.”
For the rest of this week, Sheffield will do what he’s told. Let’s see if Ineos brass gives him orders to ride into a breakaway or try his luck.
“It’s awesome that they are able to believe in me and we have a really good support crew,” he said. “We have two guys who can do well in these steep finishes here with Jhonatan [Nárvaez] and Carlos [Rodríguez]. I am building the fitness until the opening weekend.”