For the second time in four days, Ineos Grenadiers turned their numerical advantage into a spring Classics victory as Magnus Sheffield soloed to the win at Brabantse Pijl.
The American was the youngest of a trio of Ineos men who made the decisive lead group which emerged on the second of four laps of the closing circuit at Brabantse Pijl with 51km to run.
The 19-year-old Sheffield had earlier shown his strength by pushing the pace up the final ascent of the cobbled Moskesstraat at 10km out, before making another move at 3.8km to go. With Tom Pidcock and Ben Turner marking moves and neutering attacks behind, the solo strike proved to be the race winner.
After Pidcock and Kwiatkowski had worked a similar numerical advantage at Amstel Gold Race, the final of Brabantse Pijl was another demonstration of the British team playing the numbers game during the Classics season.
“That makes more pressure, you know?” Turner said after the race. “Because if we lose it then it’s not going to look good. But we rode amazing and it’s so great.
“I think we just played the cards, Magnus went, and he won. And yeah, I think we would have sprinted – I don’t know who for, to be honest. The only thing that mattered was that we won, which one of us didn’t matter.
“Three guys in the front? Yeah, we couldn’t not win, really, could we?” Pidcock added. “We were keeping it together as much as possible so that we could play where, where it’s games and not so much the legs.”
The victory continues what has been a stunning start to Sheffield’s pro career, with a stage win at the Vuelta a Andalucía already on his palmarès. The triumph was made more remarkable by the fact that the trio of Ineos riders at the front have an average age of just 21.
“You know, we’ve got a young team,” Pidcock said. “I’m not exactly experienced, and these guys are not experienced, so it’s good morale. Perhaps maybe we need to lose a few races, so we don’t get too comfortable.
“We went early, and we planned to go early,” he added, referring to the move instigated by Turner shortly after the Hertstraat 51km from the finish. “But we didn’t mean for the whole race to explode at that point, we just meant for another group to go.”
Turner had already caught the eye with a series of impressive rides in service of team leaders Pidcock and Kwiatkowski during these spring Classics, while Pidcock is already a well-known name with world and Olympic titles to his name in cyclo-cross and mountain bike.
Sheffield, who also comes from a background in ‘cross, is perhaps less familiar. Or at least he was before Wednesday. After the race, Turner summed him up with a few lines.
“His legs,” he said, when asked about Sheffield’s greatest strength. “He’s a young guy, strong. That’s the word I’d use to describe him – strong. It’s obvious, and you see what he did today and what all of us did today. He’s a great rider and he’s got a great future.”