‘I love when it’s hectic’ – Riley Sheehan ready for Tour of Flanders debut

23-year-old American reflects on the lessons and challenges of his first spring Classics campaign ahead of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday

Clock23:00, Saturday 30th March 2024
Riley Sheehan at his European debut last season for Israel-Premier Tech

© Getty Images

Riley Sheehan at his European debut last season for Israel-Premier Tech

The United States has been starving for a male Classics star ever since George Hincapie battled for podiums in the early 2000s at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. In recent years, though, the tide has changed, and the United States has numerous budding Classics riders as the country continues to usher in a generation of cyclists who can compete across the calendar.

While Matteo Jorgenson is the young American with the hottest prospects heading into the Tour of Flanders, he is not alone as an American who will be looking to be a part of the next generation of Classic stars.

Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech) is one of those riders and will be making his debut at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. While the American has yet to notch a top result this spring, the 23-year-old does have a big one-day result to his name with his win at Paris-Tours in 2023 and is building into form and finding his feet before the Tour of Flanders Sunday and Paris-Roubaix next week.

“The form’s been coming along,” Sheehan told GCN before Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. “At Milan-San Remo I started to feel some really good legs, and at E3 the progression kept building.

“It’s been a bit different, but I’m loving it. I feel like I’m the type of rider who can be used in any type of race. All of these Belgian races here – I love them. It’s chaotic, it’s brutal, but I think it’s something I can be really good at.

“I love when it’s hectic. The more chaos that happens, the more variables in the equation, that’s what I love.”

Read more: Tour of Flanders – Depleted Visma-Lease a Bike may capitalise on ‘underdog’ status

While Sheehan may only be one year younger than Matteo Jorgenson, he is a rookie in the European pro peloton compared to Jorgenson who has been in the upper echelons of the sport for four seasons. Nevertheless, Sheehan is coming into his first spring Classics campaign with confidence from his win at Paris-Tours last year and security that comes from a contract with Israel-Premier Tech through 2026.

With that long-term outlook in his pocket, Sheehan can focus fully on his development this spring without too much pressure to perform right away.

“It’s been hard to define success in these races, but on these roads just learning them is a massive part of gaining experience,” Shehaan said. “I’ve noticed in each race the progression of knowing the roads. But you know, I want to play the game in the finale of these races, so if I’m able to see a progression and be competitive closer and closer to the finish, get closer to the front group, I’d be very satisfied.

“No matter what, the knowledge I’m learning here is super valuable. I finish one race and I’m like ‘I can’t wait for next year for when I know how this is going to go on this climbing.’”

At Israel-Premier Tech, Sheehan has an interesting platform to build experience in the Classics. On one hand, with invitations to all the races secured and opportunities to do whichever race suits him with the team’s current roster configuration. On the other, Israel-Premier Tech is lacking an out-and-out Classics leader for Sheehan to learn from. Nevertheless, in Flanders, more race experience is never a bad thing in the grand scheme of things.

Read more: Spring Classics 2024 – Essential guide to the races and riders

“I’m definitely figuring out what I like better and whatnot, and I think this year I can still have plenty of opportunities and define my taste for races and everything more,” Sheehan said.

“Every time I see our roster for each race I get excited. We have so many guys who have been performing really well this year, and the group is just super motivated. We have a bunch of guys around my age, some older guys, and then the younger ages as well, this match right now makes a great group where it’s cohesive and we just have fun, so it’s awesome.”

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