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OTURA, Spain (VN) — Well, that didn’t take long.
Magnus Sheffield raced with the cool efficiency of a veteran to pounce to his first pro victory Friday just eight race days since his debut with WorldTour juggernaut Ineos Grenadiers.
The 19-year-old jumped out of a reduced group of favorites late in the explosive third stage at the Ruta del Sol, and didn’t even think twice.
“I knew I couldn’t hesitate, especially with how aggressive the guys were riding behind me,” Sheffield said at the finish line.
“I knew as soon as I had the momentum, it was game over I thought.”
Sheffield: ‘I just put it all out there’
Sheffield revealed his racing chops Friday in an attack-riddled stage that saw some of the top WorldTour pros hit out in the hilly 153km stage to the foothills of Spain’s snowbound Sierra Nevada.
Ineos Grenadiers was intent on racing aggressively, and put Eddie Dunbar on the front. Sheffield was shepherding the team’s two GC riders with Carlos Rodriguez and Jhonatan Narváez.
Both of them went down in a too-hot corner, but Sheffield negotiated through traffic.
“I felt really good. We said in the beginning we thought this finish could be good for us,” Sheffield explained at the line. “I was able to stay upright and follow some wheels. I just felt really good outside of the last kilometer.”
Sheffield caught out the favorites by surprise, and when he turned on the turbos, there was no way anyone was going to bring him back.
Simon Clarke (Israel Premier Tech) chased furiously, but the leaders crossed the line three second in arrears.
“I just a saw a bunch of guys — it feels like a blur at the moment — I just put my head down and I just put it all out there,” he said.
“I had Zabi and Oli in my ears, and they said, ‘On the hammer, Magnus, just throw it all down,'” he said of his Ineos sport directors. “Because that’s how we’ve decided to race at the beginning of the season, just all in.”
Sheffield’s win pulls Ineos Grenadiers even with Lotto-Soudal and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, all with six.
Those latter two teams pack sprinters, but the early season haul reveals a newly aggressive tact taken by the British team.
“We just really nailed it, and it shows what we’re capable of,” Sheffield told VeloNews and other journalists. “We’re not just a GC team, we’re not just here to win the Tour. We’re here to succeed in all these races, and they all count at the end of the day.”
Confirming the high-profile move to Ineos Grenadiers
The victory is also a massive confirmation of Sheffield’s quality, and provides the first real hints of what Ineos Grenadiers saw when the WorldTour powerhouse decided to sign him last fall.
Sheffield broke a deal with Rally Cycling in 2021 to join Ineos Grenadiers, and debuted his season at Étoile de Bessèges.
Also read: Sheffield revving up for ‘opening weekend’
Sheffield told VeloNews at the start line Thursday he’s using the five-day Ruta del Sol to prepare for the “opening weekend,” where he will race both Omloop Het Nieuwblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
“It’s really hard to describe how good this feels. I’ve put in so much work in the off-season so I had a really tough year last year,” he said.
— Tim Johnson (@timjohnsoncx) February 18, 2022
“It feels so good in the confidence, and it shows back to the team how much they believe in me.
“I am looking forward to continuing this journey with the team. I cannot thank the guys enough. My teammates rode so hard today, I cannot be more proud of them.”
Perhaps it’s no coincidence at all that he started the race wearing the “21” start number.