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Magnus Sheffield on Tour of Flanders debut: ‘My first season is a big learning experience’

Ineos Grenadiers rookie continues to impress with Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and Paris-Roubaix on the horizon.

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KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Magnus Sheffield is keeping both feet on the ground and his eyes toward the finish line after bashing his way across the bergs Sunday in his debut Tour of Flanders.

Sheffield made it to Oudenaarde to complete his opening career monument, the first of what the U.S. WorldTour rookie hopes is many.

“It was a really hard day, the longest race I’ve ever done,” he said at the line Sunday. “Hopefully I will have many more of these to come and I look forward to it in the future.

“I think I have to look at this first season as a big learning experience. I am still really young, and I hope to do this for awhile, so hopefully one day we can come back for the win.”

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Up until Sunday, Sheffield’s longest race was just longer than 200km at the classics at E3 Saxo Bank Classic, GP de Denain, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, all part of his baptism by fire in the northern classics.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider never raced monument distance before Sunday, and pushed into the unknown of the threshold of the “sixth hour” that comes with racing 250km or more in the monuments.

The 19-year-old came away enamored with racing in Belgium.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Sheffield said at the start. “We have a really good team and amazing weather, and it’s going to be really cool to race out there today.

“We have a couple of different cards to play, but we are a bit of the underdogs here because we are the youngest team,” he said. “My job is to control the race in the beginning and it depends how it plays out with the other races.”

Amstel Gold Race and Paris-Roubaix on the horizon

Magnus Sheffield won early in his debut WorldTour season with a stage at Ruta del Sol in February. (Photo: Getty Images)

More than six hours later, Sheffield crossed the line 69th in a group at 8:50 back.

A spill coming over the Valkenberg climb with just more than 100km to go made what was going to be a hard day in the saddle that much more challenging.

“On top of the Valkenberg, it was on a pretty wide road, and there were some crosswinds and it was hectic all day,” he said. “There was a rider that went down in front of me, and I just went over the top of him and into the ditch.”

Sheffield arrived to the line with cuts and scrapes to his right arm and hip, but nothing was going to stop him from reaching Oudenaarde.

“It was a bit disappointing for me to go down after the Valkenberg, but I was able to catch on eventually and go group to group,” he said. “The guys were able to stay up front, and Ben was able to get into a move before, which really helped the guys in the back.

“I wasn’t quite sure in the final, but then I heard Dylan was able to hold for second, which was amazing.

“We came here to win, and we had a squad capable of winning, and we can be proud of that.”

Sheffield’s spectacular spring debut isn’t over yet. He won his first pro race in February in a stage at Ruta del Sol, and proved his abilities across the cobblestoned classics all spring.

“After this I will go home, and hopefully I will do Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl leading up to Roubaix,” Sheffield said. “After that, maybe Tour de Romandie. We’ll see for the rest of the season. Plans can change at any time with the sicknesses, and then see how the season goes, and we’ll make some plans after that.”

First, Sheffield will compete in a track cycling Nation’s Cup on April 21-24 in Glasgow, Scotland, before taking a well-deserved break.