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Underdogs ready: Analyzing the US men’s team for the UCI Road World Championships

Powless, Swenson and Sheffield form part of a dynamic team for the men's road race.

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The US men’s team may not have won the elite road race at the UCI Road World Championships since 1993, but the squad heads to Australia with ambitions of leaving a mark on the race, and realistic options for a top-10 result.

Last year Neilson Powless flew the flag with fifth place in Leuven, Belgium, thanks to an aggressive ride that almost netted a medal. The EF Education-EasyPost rider returns this year for another tilt at glory, and the 26-year-old will be backed by a strong looking team comprising of five riders.

Magnus Sheffield enjoyed a breakout season and could be a viable plan-B, while the others can try their luck.

There are spots for national road champion Kyle Murphy, and Scott McGill, while gravel and mountain bike specialist Keegan Swenson was a surprise but exciting call up.

Lawson Craddock confirmed he did not receive a visa, and will not race in Australia.

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Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost)

Potential role: Leader
Age: 26
Worlds pedigree: Fifth in 2021

The crash in Montreal may have knocked the wind out of Powless’s sails but there’s no way he’d venture all the way to Australia if there were any lingering health or injury issues. He will line up as the likely leader to a US team that will have designs on another top-10 following Powless’s fifth in Leuven last year. A winner of San Sebastian, he clearly has the engine for the long-distance events, and what he lacks in a Wout van Aert level sprint he makes up for in durability and good sense on how to read a race. Certainly not a top favorite in the international press, Powless knows that he can sit back, stay safe and allow the race to open up before he needs to take any wind at the front of the peloton. He finished third in Maryland, so he clearly has some decent form after a long season and block of time spent at altitude.

Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers)

Potential role: Co-leader
Age: 20
Worlds pedigree: Third in the junior road race in 2019. Top-ten last year in the U23 ranks.

Sheffield heads to Australia as a genuine card to play. During his WorldTour debut season he took three significant wins, including an incredible victory in De Brabantse Pijl – La Flèche Brabançonne, and has become a regular cog in the Ineos machine. Not bad for a 20-year-old. A big question mark, as it will be for a number of riders on this list, will be how they deal with the distance. Sheffield’s win in Belgium in the spring saw him race 205km but there’s another 60km to deal with in Australia and that extra effort is something battled hardened veterans struggle with, let alone neo-pros. That said, the engine Sheffield possesses should see him reach the final two laps of the race with the front group.

Scott McGill (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling)

Potential role: Domestique
Age: 23
Worlds pedigree: None

McGill earned a place on the long-list for the world championships following an impressive Tour of Portugal that saw him pick up two stage wins and the points jersey. With riders dropping out of contention McGill was drafted in and he’ll head to Australia for his debut at this level. His breakout performances in Portugal will probably lead to a contract at a higher level in 2023 but when it comes to Worlds he has the chance to demonstrate his growing reputation on a wide stage. He could be an ideal candidate for the day’s early break.

Kyle Murphy (Human Powered Health)

Potential role: Domestique
Age: 30
Worlds pedigree: None

Winning the national road race championships earlier this year put Murphy on the plane to Australia. The breakthrough win at nationals had been on the cards for some time but now the 30-year-old has the chance to represent the US for the first time at an elite level on the road. The course at worlds has some similarities to the one on which Murphy triumphed earlier this year and a chance to infiltrate an early break or support Sheffield and Powless into the second half of the race are both viable options.

Keegan Swenson

Potential role: Wildcard
Age: 28
Worlds pedigree: None

The off-road specialist counts the Valley of the Sun stage race in Utah as his biggest road event to date but he heads to Australia as one of the most dynamic and interesting riders to follow in the entire men’s field. What Swenson lacks in road experience he makes up for in raw talent, endurance, and enthusiasm. Those qualities could carry the American far in the road race. When it comes to tactics, it will be hard to decipher Swenson’s responsibilities. That missing experience could count against him but it could also provide a bedrock of freedom when it comes to following early moves or attacking at a moment in the race when the main contenders aren’t expecting it. A top result is a stretch but a memorable ride and stint in the break can’t be ruled out.