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Bikes, Biltong and Breaking The Mould - Q&A With Harry Tanfield

Bikes, Biltong and Breaking The Mould - Q&A With Harry Tanfield

Header Photo Credit -
Harry Tanfield
Photo Credit - Harry Tanfield, Facebook
This week we caught up with professional cyclist and From Our Farm ambassador, Harry Tanfield. Harry has had a pretty full on 12 months, wrapping up some seriously impressive results in his most successful season to date. Highlights included bursting onto the international track cycling scene with a "cool runnings" style team of good mates (more info at the end of this post), a commonwealth games silver medal, stage win at the Tour of Yorkshire and silver at the national cycling championships, second only to Geraint Thomas (who did alright in France a few weeks later!). Following such success he has recently gained a place on the Katusha Apecin World Tour Team (the premier league of cycling!)


  1. So for those who don't know, tell us in a few short sentences who you are and what do you do in the world of cycling? Who do you ride for and in which disciplines?


So been riding bikes pretty much all my childhood, started around 12. Progressing through junior ranks, to senior. Pretty much tried a bit of everything, starting with the road / cyclocross and into track after a few years. But after junior, pretty much solely focused on the road for around 5 years till I rediscovered the track again, after a 4 year break 


  1. The last 12 months looks to have been a bit of a roller-coaster. Especially your exploits on the velodrome in a self-funded team made up of good friends. That must have been enjoyable and challenging in equal measures?


I would agree! Ever since getting back on a track bike pretty much 11 months ago now, everything has gone so fast. I guess it took that long to get back into the track that by the time I had the season was done, (End of Jan). No break then obviously some mad panic training on the road for the next 2 months to make sure I was fit for the Commonwealth Games Road TT in Oz. That came around so fast, then into a full road season in the UK and Europe. 

I'll always remember that 2017/18 winter though, getting back on the track. Just a change from the norm, it really felt like a different sport and I think my body responded the same way initially, but we won a World Cup event and had some laughs along the way. 


  1. If you had to single out the high point and low point (if there were any) from this year, what would they be and why?


High, obviously Yorkshire was massive. Never had that feeling before after finishing a bike race, I guess it was disbelief. The National TT (Time Trial) I think I am more proud of, but it’s a TT not a road race, so the element of surprise is a lot less just looking at a time sheet rather than a frantic sprint haha.

Low, 2 days after the National TT Champs I was riding the road race. I was cooked, physically.. but I think mentally also. I had just been on it full gas pretty much since mid November 17 and I was done. After getting a stage in Yorkshire and then 2nd in the TT, I was just like "I want a break" but I couldn’t because of some important races. Our team (Canyon Eisberg) needed me to ride well to help get them into the Tour of Britain, I did my best, running at 80% and feeling terrible and fatigued on the bike. 


  1. Who has been the biggest source of help during your progression from amateur competitor to professional athlete?


I mean there’s so many people that have helped me from youth, junior into U23. Club teams and the individuals that run them, giving up their own time and money because they love the sport. For me Tim (Elverson, Owner of Team Canyon Eisberg) has really helped me progress over the last 3 years, the team in its various forms has grown over that time in scale, ambition and race program. Ultimately without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. In fact the team nearly didn’t happen last year, so for sure I probably wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for Canyon Eisberg, but Tim is behind all that. 

Tim Elverson

 Photo Credit -
  1. You did engineering at University in Teesside, was there an another career path that had to make way for the bike, or was cycling always the target for your day job?


When I finished A levels I wasn’t selected for the U23 GB program, like Charlie (Harry's younger brother, who race commentators regularly confuse him for!). It was track based, move to Manchester [near the national cycling centre] etc etc. I was better on the road than the track and to honest preferred it but that wasn’t an option really. I mean I could have gone and lived in Belgium or something but I did what all my mates did and went to uni, obviously still cycling as best I could, but in the UK. Going to Belgium for blocks in between the semesters, I got a taste for racing in Europe at senior amateur level, as well as the highest UK level racing. It was a good mix.


  1. If you had to give one piece of advice to a youngster looking to turn professional at their chosen hobby what would it be? 


Stick at it, the people that are always better at a young age don’t always stay the best! Set your goals and work towards them.


  1. So we can see from your Instagram feed you like to snack on our biltong between training and races (great choice by the way!). When and where do you find yourself eating it?


Haha, love the stuff. High in protein, ideal for when travelling etc, which I do a lot of with cycling. For the winter months with the track, you sweat a lot and although you don’t ride a lot, the legs are pretty nailed from the hard efforts so a snack that’s a bit salty and high in protein is ideal. 


  1. If you could change anything about From Our Farm Biltong what would it be?


Hmmm, possibly try and make a low salt version? Or a product that is like a meat  bar maybe? I guess it would be manufactured, not raw product like the biltong is now, but if it’s kept simple, spices, basic carbs, some sort of binding agent. Some form of snack bar might be pretty cool to see.


  1. So you'll be riding with some new teammates next year for the Katusha Alpecin World Tour team. How much of a step up is that in terms of the types of races you'll get the chance to compete in?


Yeah! December is the first time I get to meet the guys, I’m excited, also a bit nervous. At least the main language on the team is English! Looking forward to discussing my race program with the team, it’s certainly gonna be a big step up!


  1. You must have noticed that there's a lot more public interest in your riding and racing now, following such a great season. Who do you think people should be talking about as the next up an coming talent, cycling or otherwise?


Yeah it’s pretty cool, Cycling Weekly have done a few pieces on myself and my bro in the past and it’s nice. I guess because we haven’t been in the BC system all our lives people see it slightly different, a different way into racing at the highest level. For sure there’s a lot of strong guys coming through! I mean Toby my little bro is a junior now, relative to what myself and Charlie were doing power wise at his age he isn’t miles away, but the level is so much higher than back when I was a junior in 2012! It’s mad, well.. juniors riding with seniors in the UK etc, just shows. I mean I have been beaten many times by juniors over the last few years in some UK races. 


  1. How was it to compete for GB for the first time? With the cycling world championships in your home county of Yorkshire next year do you have one eye on trying to get selection for 2019?


Yeah the euros (European Champs) were cool, first time at a senior event etc. I didn’t have the legs from Nationals, but I wasn’t a million miles off a top 10 which was what I was aiming for. Definitely something I want to break into!

Yorkshire next year is going to be mega! And I definitely want to make the team, especially with the revised Team Time Trial format, looks like it should be fun.


  1.  Thanks for taking the time to tell us a bit more about the last 12 months! where are you racing now, what's next on the calendar and where's the best place to follow your adventures? 


Actually, I have had a quiet August/September, relative to last year anyway. Been getting back on the velodrome, training full time there with the odd road race thrown in. I was in Kazakhstan 2 weeks ago, finished the last event for the Team (Canyon Eisberg) last weekend with a TT in France which I did AWFUL in, should have stayed in bed (had a virus). I've just finished the second round of the Track World Cup with the the HuubWattbike Team in Canada. It's been a pretty mad weekend, we were fastest in qualifying beating all the national squads which was amazing and took home a silver medal. Denmark pipped us in the final by two seconds but they are hitting some seriously good form at the moment (they won the opening round in Paris last week too) so to be within reach of them is something to be happy about. It's Berlin next in a few weeks so we'll be aiming to upgrade our medals to gold! At the opening round in Paris we clocked 3:53.8 which made us the 5th fastest quartet ever so we know that the top step of the podium is definitely possible.

Then it's straight to Spain a week later for a 10 day Katusha Team Camp. Hopefully have some family time over Xmas, then I guess most of Jan / Feb I will just be in Spain, until I know my full race program. Hoping to slide in one last track race before Xmas, it’s where I started last year, so I see it as a fitting to end my track racing chapter there, before solely moving back to the road for 2019 on wards. Wish me luck!

National TT Podium

Photo Credit - Harry Tanfield, Facebook

In the winter of 2017, Harry joined forces with a band of maverick, amateur riders who happened to also be good friends. Together with some out of the box thinking, they have gone on to challenge and come out victorious against some of the top cycling nations in the world. Their underdog story and rise to success has been documented in a short film you can watch here.

Team Huub Wattbike

Photo Credit - Kenza Barton Schlee
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