It's been a whirlwind 18 months for Harry Tanfield as he won silver (men's omnium) and bronze (men's team pursuit) at the British National Track Championships before winning Stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2018.
Since then, Harry stepped up to the UCI World Tour with Team Katusha-Alpecin and he can look forward to another year competing at the top level of pro cycling in 2020 as he recently announced that he'll be joining Team Ag2r La Mondiale in France.
We caught up with Harry following the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, where he collected a bronze medal when the British team flourished to finish third in the mixed team relay...
Hi Harry, what have you been up to since landing that bronze in the inaugural mixed team relay at the Worlds?
Hi guys! I've just been having a pretty chilled week really. Had a couple of good rides and just going up to Harrogate now to do some more sponsor stuff, then I’m free for the rest of the week which is nice, although the weather looks terrible!
It doesn't look great does it? The weather during the World Championships wasn't ideal either, but obviously a great result for you and the GB Team. Where does that medal rank amongst your achievements during your short career to date?
I really enjoyed it, it’s just one lap so it was pretty straightforward for us, although some of the guys at the World Champs obviously had some tough conditions to deal with! I think the fact it's a mixed event is good as it's a proper test of which country is the strongest time-trialling nation.
The result ranks up there with my silver medal from the Commonwealth Games, but winning Stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire last year and my medals at the National Track Championships were probably my favourite achievements.
You've achieved a lot in a short space of time. Was it always your ambition to compete on the UCI Tour and has competing with the best in the world been the experience you'd hoped it would be?
The ambition was to always compete with the pro’s and when they announced the Worlds were going to be in Yorkshire, I think in 2014 or 2015, it started to become a real possibility for me.
The biggest challenges since moving to the UCI World Tour this year have probably been the travelling and the race programs, while the races are obviously harder!
The big thing is fitting everything in because it takes so much time getting from one place to another and then getting used to new places, while there’s more training to do than I'd done previously and there’s a lot less time to do it!
Image: Dave Colley ©
The coaches are good though as they’ll manage the training program accordingly, so they won’t expect me to go out for a five-hour ride when I’ve spent the day travelling. The travel is part and parcel of the job, it can feel like a burden of course, but it’s managed really well and the more you do it the more you get used to it I guess.
Is riding your bike and travelling the world as glamorous as it sounds?
We go to some beautiful places but you’ll arrive the day or night before the race, and you’ll do a practice ride and that will be about the only chance you get to check out the scenery. We don’t even stop at a coffee shop normally! You just do the ride the day before and then it’s race day, before you fly home that night or the following morning.
You could take an extra personal day to do some sightseeing, but the travel arrangements are all booked for you and obviously it’s a big logistical operation to organise getting everyone, their kit and their bikes to the airport!
We know the pain of trying to transport bikes on planes all too well. What's been the biggest change in your training schedule this year?
There’s a few more longer rides and that's probably been the biggest change. I’d been with the same coach for the last three or four years and when I first joined the Katusha-Alpecin team, but I changed coach for the Tour of Yorkshire and I’m getting used to the different style of the team coach I'm using now.
So, would there be a typical week for you? And does your schedule allow much time for socialising?
It depends on what race I've got coming up, so my preparation for a one-day race will look pretty different to a stage event.
I might have a couple of recovery days at the start of the week following a stage race. But if I've done a one-day race on a weekend, typically I might have the Monday to recover and then on Tuesday I’ll do three hours steady riding, Wednesday will be a harder session of four hours, before Thursday will be easy again, and then Friday will be a hard ride of four hours. Saturday will be a steady three hours and Sunday could be five to six hours, Monday to recover, and then I’ll be ready to race on Wednesday.
I live with the bike really, it’s my life!
There’s a time and a place for maybe having a pint after I finish cycling, so really I need to be on it 24/7, 365 days a year.
My diet is probably my one weakness though… so I go through phases of eating different things and I eat a lot of food! I don’t tend to have set meals; I’ll eat whatever’s good at the hotel!
And how about your hydration? I understand you took a Sweat Test with our Sweat Testing Partner Andy Brodziak in Harrogate earlier this year?
The hydration side of things is something that’s fairly new to me, so I’ve only really been nailing my hydration strategy since the Tour of Yorkshire and it’s definitely made me feel a lot better while I’ve been racing.
So it was really good to get my plan nailed and I genuinely think it’s helped me go the extra distance in my races, whether that’s during four-to-five hour races or during stage events.
Image: Dave Colley ©
I’d struggled in the past as I’d be pretty spent after four hours on the bike, but I think a combination of things – changing coaches, the increased training program and my hydration – have helped me go a lot longer at a high intensity this year.
And which PH products will you have with you on rides?
I use the PH 1500 tablets and I actually carry a couple of extra tablets in foil to have during races, which I carry in my shorts. It can be difficult and pretty full-on when you’re preparing for races, so on the rare occasions I have some 'chill time' I’ll make sure I carry a spare bottle with PH 1500 in it, but usually I’ll need to carry some tablets with me on the fly.
Depending on the intensity of the races, it can be quite difficult to stay on top of my hydration and nutrition. So, I’ll quite often fuel according to the type of race, so some races will be flat out all the time, whereas other races will be flat out intensity for half an hour or so and will then be relatively chilled.
I prefer to eat solid food and real food on the bike, so I won’t take anything like beta fuel. I might have a very weak energy drink, although some guys take beta fuel and don’t eat real foods, but I don’t know how they’re doing that and managing their hydration as well.
I like to keep my food separate to my hydration as I like to control what I’m having, so that’s the way I do it. A worst case scenario for me in the past has been when it’s really hot and I’ve ended up chewing on a PH tablet because I’ve left myself a bit short of water…! [Note: Not the way we'd usually recommend using PH Low-Calorie Tablets...]
I need to start trying the SweatSalt Capsules because the team do use salt tablets but they’re a very generic anti-cramp tablet and I’m not sure how much sodium is in them. When it’s hot they get dished out!
And looking back at your first season on the UCI World Tour, how would you reflect on how it's gone?
It's taken me a while to settle into it, so it was hard at the start and it’s got better as it's gone on. Knowing what I do now, I might have changed what I did last winter a little bit, but I’ve learned a lot and think I’m getting stronger.
The team has been good and given me a great program, so I’ve not just been sitting with my feet up, I’ve had a pretty busy schedule and been learning as I go.
I’ll start training again in December and it’s then in January and February that things will start to build up.
One last question from JP in the PH office - what's your best piece of equipment advice or the one thing you couldn't ride without?
A good chamois that fits you well because you’re going to be in them for a long time, so you have to be comfortable!
I'll let JP know! Thanks for your time Harry, best of luck for the rest of the year and for next season with Ag2r La Mondiale!
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🌈🥉- For Mum x . . We didn’t win, but it felt like we did. Never imagined to be coming away from @yorkshire2019 with a medal. A day which I’ll remember for a very long time. . Want to say a massive thanks to everyone, and that’s so many people that have helped over what’s been a hard month. Life has to go on but it has been made to be so much nicer. 😊 . @sophlankford my rock 😘 . . 📸 @deanreevephotography @garymainphotographer @tobytanfield