A little over 12 months ago the young cyclist from Great Ayton in North Yorkshire was a student at Derby University who, along with his housemates, had formed a track cycling team that was starting to turn heads across the world’s velodromes.
A year on and Tanfield is a member of the Great Britain cycling squad preparing for the track world championships in February and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
In between times, Tanfield won a gold medal at a World Cup event with his band of outsiders, claimed a world title alongside Ed Clancy in GB colours and then won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the individual pursuit when representing England on the Gold Coast of Australia.
And all between January and April.
“Yes it’s been quite a year,” smiles Tanfield, who has been able to catch his breath with a serious block of winter training on the boards of the national performance centre in Manchester.
“Commonwealth Games would be the highlight. It was a great atmosphere and a really special experience. To have the family there watching was a real bonus.”
The fact he won two medals that week helps set it out from the rest. Tanfield, 22, clinched gold in the individual pursuit just days after winning a silver with Team England in the team pursuit.
“I really love the individual pursuit. I never thought I’d win so to do so and get the course record as well was great,” says Tanfield.
“And in the team pursuit, we’d peaked for the world championships a few weeks earlier in Holland so weren’t at the top of our game. To get second place on the day was massive.”
The gold that Britain won at the world championships in Apeldoorn in late February was even bigger, particularly in the context of Tanfield’s journey.
For it was he and his like-minded University friends – brother Harry, Dan Bigham, Jacob Tipper and Jonathan Wale – who formed Team KGF, the revolutionary outsiders who claimed a World Cup title in the four-man team pursuit in Minsk in January.
“Those things don’t happen very often,” he said of the upstart team beating well-resourced national squads.
“The whole lifestyle we had was based around the track and trying to go fast, that was the springboard that allowed me to reach the heights I did later in the year.
“Nations hire engineers, they hire physiologists – but we were all studying cycling ourselves.
“We looked at the riders we had and broke it down separately. How are we going to go as fast as possible over 4km? We looked at our physiology and what our advantages and disadvantages were and put those to good use.
“The way we rode the race was different, too. The running method changed where ‘man 1’ would change to ‘man 3’, and we’d have longer turns (on the front) instead of short turns, all to make ourselves more efficient and ultimately faster.
“It’s very rare to have the impact we had. Maybe someone will do it again with breakthroughs in training, with advances in other fields. We’ll have to see. But it was very special.”
KGF was generally a more relaxed environment than the one Tanfield aspired to, than the one he is in now, the Great Britain Olympic cycling programme in Manchester.
“I still love it and enjoy what I do but it’s that little more professional. At the end of the day it’s a job,” says Tanfield, who will ride on the road with British team Canyon DHB next summer.
“I want to go to the Olympics on the track and then after that see what the future holds, maybe on the road.
“I’d love to do team pursuit at the Olympics, that’s what the next few years hold for me.”
Racing against the clock is clearly a great strength of his, as he showed by winning the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
That is not on the Olympic programme for 2020, but Tanfield hopes it returns by Paris in 2024.
In the meantime, it is all roads to Poland for the world championships at the end of February, when he will look to defend his title, possibly in the company of fellow Yorkshiremen Clancy and Oliver Wood, of Wakefield.
It could also be a big year for Tanfield’s elder brother Harry, who has turned a Tour de Yorkshire stage win in Doncaster in May into a road contract with World Tour team Katusha for 2019.
“It’s a massive step for Harry and hopefully he can carve out a good career,” says Charlie, who is two years to the day younger.
“If you see your brother have a great result then you think ‘if he can do it, I can do it’.”