He’s riding high, but Tour de Yorkshire first stage winner Harry Tanfield reveals he was almost defeated before he even began the race.
It was the surprise win that had Yorkshire cycling fans cheering and local lad Harry Tanfield feeling ‘blue’ for all the right reasons.
When Great Ayton’s Tanfield scooped the winner’s blue jersey for the opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, it was a dream come true for him to win on home soil and a stunning start to the 2018 event that saw crowds once again pack the route.
Picking up the coveted blue jersey wasn’t just a huge personal achievement. Tanfield became the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire and picked up the points leader’s green jersey and the grey jersey as the most active rider of the day.
His Tour de Yorkshire performance came just weeks after he won Commonwealth Games silver medal in the men’s individual time trial – particularly memorable after he was captured by cameras moments after his performance, responding to news that he was currently in first place, with a slightly surprised ‘Am I?’.
But while he’s now riding high after stunning performances in top flight competition, it could all have been very different. For his competition hopes nearly came a cropper – thanks to a bumpy encounter with a Yorkshire pothole.
“I had been away from home for a few months,” says the 23-year- old. “I went out to do some training in January on the roads around my home. There was a massive pothole on the road. It got me and I went down on the floor.
“Luckily it was just a scrape and nothing serious but I couldn’t believe it happened.”
Coming face to face with a pothole is no joke when you’re pedalling at high speed with just a layer of Lycra to protect your fall – even if Canyon-Eisberg’s team kit provider is dhb, which means replacement tights and shorts shouldn’t be a problem.
Indeed, the team’s male riders, including Tanfield, wear highly technical Aeron LAB, dhb’s new collection which has been carefully designed to be lighter, faster and more aerodynamic. Tanfield, who was wearing dhb as he crossed the Tour de Yorkshire finishing line, and his team-mates were even involved in the design and gave feedback on its performance.
Luckily Tanfield seems to have got most of his crashes out of his system as a youngster: “I’ve not broken any bones for at least four years,” he says.
The Stage One win across a 180km route from Beverley to Doncaster was heralded as an astonishing victory for Canyon-Eisberg rider Tanfield, who grew up cycling on the quiet roads on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors but had largely parked his racing career to concentrate on his studies at Teeside University.
“I probably got my first two wheel bike when I was three,” he recalls. “I didn’t bother with stabilisers. Then it was mountain biking, and national series racing since I was about 12 years old.
“It was disappointing not to make the cut for the Under-23 British Cycling squad, but I just took a couple of quiet years to go to uni and then got back on the bike after that.”
He did that in spectacular style. He discovered he had a place with Team England for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in a text from his girlfriend which he picked up while training in Spain. It sparked a mad dash for a suitable TT bike to take to the Gold Coast.
There his silver medal performance made national headlines, while brother Charlie (21), was sending shockwaves through cycling after winning gold in the 4000m individual pursuit and silver in the team pursuit after battling to the top of the sport without funding support from British Cycling.
Right now, however, Harry is still revelling in that momentous Tour de Yorkshire opening day win. And it’s perhaps no surprise that while his training often sees him sweating it out in Spain, his favourite routes are amid the spectacular scenery of the North Yorkshire Moors. “Lots of nice roads, nice terrain,” he says. “I don’t mind the climbs as long as they’re not over seven or eight degrees, and there’s a good, fast descent with the sun facing you – that’s pretty enjoyable.”
And in terms of atmosphere and support, the Tour de Yorkshire can’t be beaten. “The home crowd is mega,” he grins. “When you’re hurting and it’s hard going, the local support really does help you push through.
“It’s crazy seeing people packed at the side of the road, cheering us on. “It really makes a huge difference.”
As his success story continues, Tanfield is conscious of the part he plays as a role model to the next generation of cycle champs. “Enjoy it,” he says. “Never give up, keep plugging away and the results will come.”
Harry Tanfield and his fellow Canyon-Eisberg male team riders wear Aeron LAB, the new collection from British cycling brand, dhb. Tanfield’s Tour de Yorkshire race-winning outfit is available from cycle retailers Wiggle.