The game of ‘Snakes and Ladders;’ if you land on a ladder you go up the board but if you land on a snake you slide back down. Harry Tanfield is good at it, he went up the ladder from UK continental team Canyon Eisberg to World Tour team, Katusha Alpecin but that folded – however, he grabbed another ladder to go to French équipe AG2R, there was no contract renewal at the end of season 2020 though, then came the snake as he slid back down to another UK continental team, Ribble-Weldtite.

Harry Tanfield
Harry Tanfield didn’t get much chance to use his Ribble kit this winter. Photo©Dean Reeve

But just for a week or two; now he’s gone and grabbed a rung again, this time with South African squad Team Qhubeka ASSOS.

An outfit which is itself no stranger to escape artistry.

Douglas Ryder’s team looked like it was out of the game when main sponsor, NTT withdrew but an eleventh hour deal with Swiss clothing giant Assos saved the day.

We caught up with the 25 year-old Tanfield who hails from North East England at his training base in Spain.

Congratulations on getting the ride, Harry – how did that come about?

“SEG act for me, as well as having the Racing Academy they have UCI licensed agents, they reached out to Doug Ryder at NTT – which will become Qhubeka-Assos for season 2021 – and agreed a deal for me.”

Ribble-Weldtite must have been disappointed to lose you but were gracious about it in their press announcement.

“Yes, there were no problems about my moving on; I had a clause in my contract which said that if I received an offer from a higher level team then I was free to accept it.”

Harry Tanfield
Harry Tanfield rode La Vuelta with AG2R La Mondiale. Photo©Vincent Curuchet

I wondered, when you heard that AG2R weren’t retaining you if you considered going back to British Cycling, you have strong track palmarès?

“Not really, it’s a while since I was involved in the track, albeit my brother still is, it would be a huge commitment to go back to training for the track – and I want to continue on the road.”

How much notice did you get from AG2R?

“Three months, so I knew that I was moving on when I rode the Vuelta but it didn’t affect my motivation, it was pretty tough but a nice race and I enjoyed the experience.

“That was my last race with them.”

How was the Angliru?

“Pretty nasty!

“The time cut was reasonably generous but having that issue with my VMO muscle on my inner thigh made it even harder to get up there.”

Was that the injury which caused you to abandon – that must have been frustrating to leave the race so late?

“Yes but I was in a lot of pain.

“I crashed early in the race and should have seen the osteopath right away but didn’t.

“When you crash and you’re clipped in you get twisted – I twisted my tibia – and end up compensating by over-using muscles you wouldn’t ordinarily use in that fashion.

“I also had a stomach problem and that’s why I was DNS, I couldn’t make it down to breakfast, never mind ride a stage.”

And are you all sorted out now?

“Yes, I’ve been doing strengthening exercises and I’m out here now in Spain and back into training with friends.

“I took a week off and I’ve been doing steady miles and some Vo2 stuff out here, I want to be ready for the first training camp in January.”

Photo©GettyImages
Harry Tanfield rode with Katusha in 2019. Photo©Team Katusha

I read in the interview you did with Cycling Weekly magazine last month that you felt ‘flicked’ by Katusha – is it a similar feeling with AG2R?

“A lot of races you’re working for the team and so don’t have results to show for it – you look at Pro Cycling Stats and there’s nothing to see.

“AG2R decided that they were changing direction, a fresh start with new riders, only keeping around 10 and letting the rest, me included, go.

“I didn’t actually get many race days in 2020; I rode the Marseillaise and Samyn then it was lock down.

“When we came back I rode the Tour of Poitou Charentes, the Tour of Poland and Isbergues and then it was the Vuelta.

“Results-wise I had little to show for the season.”

Any rides you were happy with?

“In my local time trials I was flying; I don’t actually worry about the times, just how my performance relates to my previous best performances over the course. 

“I’d come back from a race abroad where I wasn’t firing but then take 30 seconds off one best time and a minute off another, so I was flying but then the next race I’d not be firing again.” 

Do you know many folks on the new team?

“I don’t know anyone but I’ve made a few Zoom calls with management and exchanged emails with the coaching staff.

“I’ll meet everyone at the first camp in January.”

Harry Tanfield. Photo©AG2R La Mondiale

BMC bikes and Assos clothing – very nice.

“Yeah, but clothing is clothing… as long as it’s bespoke and fits me.”

What’s 2021 about?

“It depends on my programme but I’d really like to get some early races in and get off to a good start, perhaps in the Middle Eastern races?

“But I’ll be getting my programme at the training camp in January.”

Will you be seeking to develop and exploit your time trialling talents, you were a Commonwealth Games medallist in the event?

“No, that doesn’t get you a ride, you have to be balanced, able to do everything.

“You look at what’s happening in the sport with teams folding, I was talking to the Danish Riwal team for instance but they’re going to have to go down to continental level to continue. That’s James Shaw left without a ride…

“Like I say, you have to be a balance rider if you want to continue to get a ride at the highest levels in the sport.”

Harry Tanfield on a fast descent during the Gordon Arms Hilly Time Trial 2014, in the Scottish Borders. Photo©Martin Williamson

That’s for sure, Harry. We wish him all the best with his new team and will be keeping an eye on his results – he has come an awful long way from riding one of our local races, the Gordon Arms Time Trial in the Scottish Borders back in 2014.