The Ineos Grenadiers rider will line up alongside joint-leader Neilson Powless as part of a strong five-man team looking to better last year’s fifth place finish in Leuven. That time it was Powless who almost reached the podium but the pair will share responsibility on the road in Sunday’s event with Sheffield keen to stress that both riders are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the team.
“I think that it’s clear that both Neilson and I are both leaders for this team,” Sheffield told VeloNews from inside the US camp at worlds.
“He’s also come here in good shape after the races he did in Montreal and Quebec. The rest of the team wasn’t quite the team that we expected but we still have a strong line up for Sunday.”
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Sheffield has enjoyed a breakout debut season in the WorldTour, picking up a couple of major wins, including a solo victory in De Brabantse Pijl – La Flèche Brabançonne. Powless came within seconds of wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France and despite his crash in Canada, also heads into Sunday’s road race with his tail up. The key, according to Sheffield, will be down to how the pair combine their efforts.
“For Neilson and I it’s more about the communication between us,” he said.
“We can use this to our strengths. I don’t think it’s just about seeing how deep into a race we can go because that would be the wrong way to look at it. It’s more important that we use each other, so if he wants to go on the attack from far out or closer to the finish, then that’s something that we need to feel out on the road. He can use me and I can use him. I’m a team player and he thinks the same.”
Sheffield decided to skip the mixed TTT midweek in order to heal after his bruising crash in the trial. He had been in the hunt for a medal before overcooking a corner and flipping over the barriers. He escaped without any serious injuries, while his current form suggest he’s on track.
“I feel better and luckily I’ve had enough time so I wasn’t too stressed after I was checked out by the doctor. It could have been a lot worse, and I’m quite lucky in that sense,” he said.
“Overall, I feel really good. Unfortunately the Tour of Britain was cut short by a few days but that might not have been a bad thing. My target was primarily the time trial but I also think that the road race can also be quite well suited to me. I’m just excited with the fact that I still feel mentally fresh because that’s the biggest hurdle, especially at this time of year. I feel like I’ve not pushed it too much and that I’ve balanced my season and the racing. I can be really happy with that.”
Whatever the result on Sunday the 20-year-old is more than pleased with his season to date. Of course he still wants more but the last twelve months have seen him embed himself into the WorldTour with ease and take several major stepping stones in his career.
“I’ve been really happy with the results that I’ve had and the feeling that I’ve had within the team. This year gives me a lot of confidence going forward. It wasn’t that I started at a low level this year but I made a big jump. I’m not starting at ground zero next year, I’ve already made progress, so I feel like I can pick up where I leave off next season. It means I don’t feel a lot of pressure and that I can explore the different styles of racing. I can be extremely happy with the team and this year,” he said.
There is still plenty to achieve before the season is out but the American does have one eye on next year and the idea of making his grand tour debut. He still needs to sit down and discuss the notion with his trade team but given his quick accession at Ineos Grenadiers a start one of the Giro or the Vuelta could be on the cards in 2023.
“It was something that crossed my mind for this year but I had a lot of ambitions to come to worlds in the best shape possible and I knew that it would be difficult if I had done the Vuelta, for example. For sure it’s a goal for next year but it ultimately comes down to the goals of the team and making sure that it’s the right decision for my overall development. The team really cares about my overall career. Not just one or two seasons,” he said.