Three days after the closing ceremony of a Winter Olympics that reignited the debate about sports funding in this country, a young man from Yorkshire starts turning the wheels towards Tokyo this week as an example of what can be achieved off your own back.
Charlie Tanfield, 21, from Great Ayton on the edge of the North Yorks’ Moors, represents Britain at the Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, alongside household names like Ed Clancy, Jason and Laura Kenny.
With 15 gold medals between them at world championships, Clancy and the Kennys have benefitted greatly from, and made the most of, the UK Sport funding programme that has kept British Cycling at the top of its game for more than a decade.
But Tanfield is proof that you don’t have to be on the programme to be successful.
This year, he has been part of one of the more eye-catching storylines of the track campaign, riding as part of the all-amateur squad Team KGF whose innovative tactics have seen them become British champions in the team pursuit and win a World Cup gold in Minsk.
Tanfield is one of four riders outside the programme – along with Dan Bigham, Jacob Tipper and Jonathan Wale – who have funded themselves and developed a new technique that has taken the cycling world by storm.
There have been times when it’s been ridiculous and far too much for me to handle. I’m at university, I come home in the dark and have to do four hours on the bike.Yorkshire track cyclist, Charlie Tanfield
“I get by on my student loan,” says mechanical engineering student Tanfield, who moved into a house in Derby with his three cohorts to maximise the time spent on the project.
“Most of it comes out of our own back pocket, which is a small sacrifice to pay. If someone had said this 12 months ago (would be at the world championships) I would have laughed.
“There have been times when it’s been ridiculous and far too much for me to handle. I’m at university, I come home in the dark and have to do four hours on the bike.”
The form Tanfield has shown in helping KGF win the British title as well as a World Cup gold medal for himself in the individual pursuit, prompted his selection for the GB squad for this week’s annual track world championships.
He is part of a six-man team pursuit squad led by Yorkshire’s three-time Olympic champion Clancy, and will also ride for glory in the individual pursuit against Bigham, the brains behind the KGF operation.
“We’re not winning because we’re powerful. We’re winning because we’re smart with how we’re going about it,” said Bigham, who has a masters degree in motorsport engineering and worked for the Mercedes F1 team in 2012-13.
“Our hand positions, combined with a few other bits, are worth two to three seconds over a team pursuit. That’s not to be sniffed at. That’s the difference between winning and finishing eighth. It’s not marginal gains, it’s massive gains.”
Tanfield and Bigham are the first non-programme riders selected by GB since 2008, and are joined in the pursuit team by Wakefield’s Ollie Wood.
The 22-year-old was himself a debutant in last year’s track world championships in Hong Kong, helping the team pursuit squad to a fourth-place finish.
He has since added gold in that event in a World Cup meet in Manchester and a silver in the omnium in Canada, an individual discipline he will ride again this week in Holland.
All eyes will be on the Kennys in Apeldoorn, with Jason and Laura, nee Trott, competing together for the first time since the Rio Olympics.
Six months after giving birth to her first child Albie, four-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny is part of a six-woman endurance squad alongside Kenny, Emily Kay, Emily Nelson, Ellie Dickinson, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald looking to win the title for a seventh time and a first for four years.
Jason Kenny rides in the team sprint.
Leeds’s Katy Marchant continues to build on her surprise Olympic bronze medal in the sprint.
The 25-year-old former heptathlete competes in four events this week: the team sprint alongside debutant Lauren Bate, the individual sprint, the keirin and the 500m time-trial.