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Harry Tanfield – “Any further than a ’25’ gets a bit dull!”


We recently reprised an earlier interview with Hugh Carthy, first up the incredible Angrilu climb in La Vuelta on Sunday. We were already looking through our old interviews with British riders who are racing in Spain, particularly Harry Tanfield who has been prominent in a couple of stages, helping to power the break on Stage Four, when Harry finished last on the Angrilu.

To celebrate Harry’s accomplishment on this hardest of stages and because it’s interesting to see the mindset of aspiring riders making good, we present again our chat with him from six years ago when he was making a name for himself in Belgium’s kermises.

Harry Tanfield (l) in the break at La Vuelta. Photo©PhotoGomezSport

* * *

First published on June 25th 2014

If you remember our Gordon Arms Time Trial report earlier in the season then you’ll remember the name Harry Tanfield, he eventually took third spot. Harry also won last year’s Dave Campbell Memorial Race in the Kingdom of Fife, another race which VeloVeritas was present at.

Our other man who trawls the Belgian websites – when Vik is in his cave high in the Pentlands contemplating the latest in the ModFather/FroomeDog soap opera – Dave, clued us that said Mr. Tanfield was burning up the kermises.

Harry Tanfield
Harry Tanfield in action in Belgium. Photo©Martine Verfaillie

We’ve borrowed these recent words from Harry’s KTM team website:

‘After several forays in Belgium, Harry Tanfield’s efforts were rewarded with a win last night in the 112km Beselare Zonnebeke kermesse. In a race over 18 laps with a prime paid for each lap the racing was hard going from the start.’

“I decided to go for a few primes early on, but with breaks going up the long draggy finish straight after each lap I decided against it. I got away in three breaks early on, but each time they were bringing us back,’ explained Harry. About half way through the race there was a torrential downpour and about twenty riders got away. I missed that one, so I tried to get the rest of us to work together to bring it back. After a lot of effort we managed to reel them in.

“With about one kilometre of us having caught the break there was another attack with one rider going clear. I decided to go across to him and another rider joined me. From then on there was about 30km to go. We had about a 30 second gap with a lap to go and doing about 30 second efforts on the front and it had been working well. Then one of the riders, a New Zealander snapped his chain. We decided to up our efforts to 45 second turns.

“By now the chasing group were starting to catch us. On the run up to the finish I did a long effort; about one kilometre. The other guy came through and then he looked at me to come through again, only I didn’t. He looked back at me, I kept back about three bike lengths and when he looked forward again I hit him on the other side of the road. I think I got about two bike lengths before he realised what had happened, but by then it was too late.”

‘On Sunday 8th June Harry took second place in the 115km Lauwe kermis.’

“That was hard. Right from the off there was a group of six riders and I managed to get across to them It was through and off with the seven of us all the time.”

‘Friday 6th June was Harry’s first race on this series in Belgium for him in the Belsele kermesse in West Flanders with over 160 riders taking part.’

“Three times I got away in a group of about ten riders. About half way through the race I realised that nothing was going to stick so I left out the attacks and put it down to a bunch sprint.”

Harry Tanfield
Harry Tanfield is very down to earth. Photo©KTM Road & Trail.

‘It was a gamble that paid off, though Harry had to use a lot of skill to stay at the front. ‘

“There were a few teams trying to do lead outs for their sprinters. I tried to stay in the top ten, which meant a lot of switching of wheels and following the right moves. I thought I should go early as I was on my own and at one point I was on the front. Perhaps I went a bit too early, but I got third.”

‘Harry’s next race was on the 12th June, this time in Oudenberg. Harry filled in the details for us:’

“I punctured in the first two K on Thursday at Oudenburg so got a wheel then did a 20 min threshold for training. Its ‘race over’ here if you puncture. Yesterday was the Menen-Moorsele UCI 1.12 inter club, I was in the winning break of 20 which went away after 40 miles – then I punctured with 30 miles to go. The break stayed away; I ended up back in the bunch as there was no service – I was very disappointed. I thought I’d try to save some energy for today but 100 miles yesterday was still quite hard.

“I was second today in the Zedelgem 1.12B Kermesse. The break went on the first lap, 20 of us away; after two laps I attacked because the group was too big, leaving five of us to ride away to the finish. Our group was about five minutes up by the end.

“I went for a few primes along the way as well – they were every lap but got rolled on the line and had to settle for second. It was hard the first hour getting the gap; I averaged 340 watts – with the whole race 300 watts + average. I was just glad I didn’t have any more mechanicals. My legs were good considering I did a 100 mile race the day before and was flogging it in the break for quite a bit of it.”

Harry rounded off his trip with another win in the Wakken 1.12B Kermis on Tuesday; we make that two wins, two seconds and a third from his wee adventure to the Flatlands – nice work!

We thought we’d best have a few more words with the man…

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Harry; you’re 19 years-old – where’s home?

“I live at home still, in a village just south of Middlesbrough, Great Ayton.

“On the border with the North Yorkshire moors which is nice and handy for some good roads.”

You’re at Uni – what are you studying and how does the bike fit in?

“I’m doing M.Eng Civil Engineering at Teeside University; it’s a four year course.

“I plan to do a placement year after I finish my second year there; I’ve just finished my first.

“This makes it five years; it sounds really long but it will probably go by pretty quick. To be honest I think I have had more time this season than last when I was doing A-Levels.

“Basically whenever I’m not in a lecture I’m either doing work or training – I have to be organised but I think I have a good balance.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t get too intense as the years go by…”

You’ve been racing since age 10 – tell us about how you started, please.

“I started out racing at the BSCA’s (British Schools Cycling Association) evening race league, starting on a mountain bike then got a road bike the following year – which made a massive difference.

“The racing was handicapped based on a one lap time trial on the night and I always seemed to be riding with the older guys at the back, sometimes beating them so I just kept at it really and before I knew It, I was starting at the back on my own.”

I see your bruvs raced too – are they still competing?

“Yes, Charlie is in his second year as a junior.

“He had a few problems over winter but is getting back up to full fitness now; he just needs a bit of luck I think.

“He’s already written off two frames and a Zipp rear wheel this year!

“Toby is in his second year as an U14, seems to be improving all the time.

“He had a few problems with Asthma last year but seems to be a lot better this year.”

Harry Tanfield
Suffering and fighting in the UK races has paid dividends in Belgium for Harry Tanfield. Photo©KTM Road & Trail

Give us the results which you’re proudest of.

“Hmmm – I would say I’m proud of winning two Kermises in a week but there again I don’t really know the standard that well.

“I know there were a few ex-Pros in there but it can be very unpredictable in those races.

“I was the favourite on the bookies’ chalk board so I guess I had to win!

“I was sixth at the Stockton Grand Prix Premier Calendar last year which was a good result – and a top 10 in a Premier Calendar this year again would be fantastic.

“I’ve been in the 20’s/30’s this year in the Prems; I think I’m certainly more consistent than last year which I think is important.”

You were on the Olympic Development Programme – how did that go – did you have to ride the track?

“Yes I was on ODP for two years, the training camps were good; mainly track based, although we often did double days which involved road rides and specific work on the road which I preferred.

“I also got to ride Paris-Roubaix and the European Road Race Champs which was a really good experience, I was top 20 at Roubaix but looking back I think I maybe could have ridden better there.”

Tell us about the KTM set up, please.

“It’s really good; we have a great management setup and everything is very well organised.

“Neil and Linsey are chief organisers and having been at Herbalife last year with them running the team it pretty much feels like the same set up.

The bikes are great and we have some fantastic sponsors, without them it all wouldn’t be possible.”

You race in Scotland quite a bit…

“Well – not as much as I’d like to!

“The prize money is normally pretty good up there as well.

“Last year I won the David Campbell RR and I also had some other podiums I think. I can’t remember the name of one of the other races but it went over some massive mountain!

“It’s a shame I haven’t been up there too much this year, I think with the Premiers on my calendar it’s been pretty full on with them.

“Stopping up there with my team mate Gary Hand last year was class, we did three races on the bounce and it was great.

“I think this year it was the Wiltshire GP at the same time which was unfortunate.”

What’s your favourite type of race?

“National B or Kermesse racing I guess.

“Pretty much just Belgium really!

“I seem to do best in them. Although I do love a good Crit and I’m partial to a TT, preferably anything up to a 25 – any further and it gets a bit dull.”

Harry Tanfield
Harry Tanfield digs in at the Tour of the Reservoir. Photo©KTM Road & Trail

I see you can ‘test’ a bit too…

“Oh yeah, I have been doing a few this season, mainly just when there’s nothing else on.

“I seem to be able to win the local ones OK, its just good training and there’s nowhere to hide and you can see how your threshold threshold is.

“I ride the Cleveland Wheelers Evening Series TT; most Thursday’s, I just seem to bounce around the 18:15 – 18:45 region (for 8.7 miles, ed.) I won’t stop till I go sub 18!

“Although my calendar is pretty heavy with all the crits now so I will have to hit it hard in August.

“I’ve entered the National TT this year, the standard is really high, but I will just give it everything, there’s nothing else you can do!”

Who organised your trip to Flanders?

“Me, I have a friend who lives in Brugge who is happy to put me up for the week or so.

“I just book the ferry, normally about £60, and crack on.”

Do the results you achieved tempt you to get over to Belgium and spend a season?

“I should do, really! I’ve never finished outside the top 10 in a kermis and I took five podiums in five races so in reality I should do it, I think.

“The money is very good as well – the trip easily paid for itself; in fact I made a few hundred euros I think.

“The only thing is I’m sort of tied in with uni. now but if I can keep getting out there for a week at a time a few times a year then I’ll take that for the time being…”

What’s the long term plan for the bike?

“I just want to take it as far as I can really and have no regrets.

“Obviously just keep going as I am through uni. and then I think I’ll have to have a bit of an evaluation of the situation.

“Once I have my degree and a bit of experience behind me then I can have a bit of break hopefully.

“The placement year will be tough, actually having to go and work sounds pretty grim but I just have to get through it.

“Hoping it won’t impact me too much, I will just have to be wise with my training time…”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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