TOMORROW’S opening race in the UCI Road World Championships will be a mixture of the familiar and unknown for Yorkshire rider Harry Tanfield.
The 24-year-old, from Great Ayton, will represent Great Britain in the team time trial mixed relay, which is being staged at the championships for the first time.
So while the 14km circuit around Harrogate will hold no surprises for Tanfield, the race itself is a shot in the dark, even for a Commonwealth Games time trial silver medallist.
“I don’t know when England is going to stage the World Championships again and certainly Yorkshire,” said Tanfield, whose fellow riders tomorrow are John Archibald, Dan Bigham, Lauren Dolan, Anna Henderson and Joss Lowden.
“To be able to get a stab at it is exciting and I am just going to have a bit of fun in the week. It will be a really good experience; it’ll be wild, local roads and home support. There will be good encouragement from the side of the road and it means my family can go and watch, so I am looking forward to it.”
The team time trial mixed relay has featured once before in a major competition, at this year’s European Championships and the victors that day, the Netherlands, will start tomorrow’s race as hot favourites. Many nations have opted to save their best time trialists for the individual races, but Primoz Roglic, winner of the Vuelta a Espana six days ago, will ride for Slovenia.
We really don’t know what the level is of the other teams and how we are going to be. It is a bit unknown really, so it will be quite interesting.Harry Tanfield
The event features teams of six, three men and three women, the different genders riding separately. The three men complete a lap of the 14km course before tagging in the women, whose race will begin when the second male rider has crossed the line.
The second women to finish will stop the clock and determine the team’s time. Basing timings and the handover on the second rider means teams can afford to drop one member before the line, but tactics and cohesion will be crucial.
“We are just going to do our best,” said Tanfield of Great Britain’s medal prospects. “We really don’t know what the level is of the other teams and how we are going to be. It is a bit unknown really, so it will be quite interesting.”
Though the event itself is new, the British squad are familiar with the course and each other.
Tanfield said: “We have been there and done a recon’ together as a group.
“Obviously we have got a strategy for each; a strategy for the guys and a strategy for the girls and what their plan is going to be.
“We’ve got a turn strategy and we know how we are going to pace it, all that kind of thing, individually for the men and then separate for the women.
“Hopefully, I’ve got some good legs on the day and I can do the numbers I need to do.”
The mixed relay replaces the traditional-style team time trial which was most recently competed for by trade teams rather than national squads.
“I think it will stay as a stand-alone event,” predicted Tanfield.
“I don’t see it progressing much more than that.
“It is a bit weird, cycling is very traditional and this is a bit different; people don’t respect it as much because of that.
“They see it as not as good as the other stuff, but hats off to them (the UCI), it is a new event, it is a bit of fun and it should be good for tv.
“It will be interesting to see what happens.”
He added: “It combines the men and the women so it really does show who has the best.
“It is a 50-50 contribution, it’s not just the men or the women, both parties have to be the best so it kind of shows which countries are developing the best cyclists, I suppose.”
Tanfield is no stranger to success on his home roads.
In 2018 he became the first British rider to win a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire when he held off the chasing pack to finish just ahead of his companions in a breakaway which had led for most of the 182km route from Beverley. That stellar performance was a key factor in his move up to World Tour level – cycling’s equivalent of the Premier League – with the Katusha-Alpecin team.
He rode in the county’s own race again this year and, having gone in low on confidence, feels those four days gave his form and belief a welcome lift.
“Yorkshire was really good,” he recalled.
“I was quite surprised, considering how I was beforehand.
“I really enjoyed Yorkshire, it was great.
“I had really good legs and it was fantastic.
“My form is not too bad now and I am looking forward to Sunday.”
The success of the 2014 Grand Depart and huge crowds drawn by subsequent Tours de Yorkshire helped attract the Worlds, cycling’s most prestigious event, to the county and to England for the first time since 1982.
Tanfield, who has just completed the Tour of Britain, finishing 86th overall and being named most aggressive rider on stage three, has no doubt the next week will be a hit.
He said: “It will be fantastic.
“I am racing tomorrow and then there’s a few media and other events I’ll be doing midweek.
“Then obviously on the weekend after there’s the elite road races so I am going to have a ride out and watch that.
“I might do a ride out to Grinton or somewhere on the route, then I can get three hours in there and then go and watch the last couple of laps around the finishing circuit. It will be good craic.”