Feature Interview: Harry Tanfield (AG2RLM Pro Cycling Team)

Whilst racers in Britain have no road racing to look forward to yet, one of the country’s leading pros, Harry Tanfield is heading back to France for a season restart

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Feature Interview: Harry Tanfield (AG2RLM Pro Cycling Team)
Photos: Check out Harry’s Instagram – great pics!

Whilst racers in Britain have no road racing to look forward to yet, one of the country’s leading pros, Harry Tanfield is heading back to France for a season restart. His team, AG2RLM Pro Cycling Team, have training camps coming up to start the final preparations before the season restart for the teams in the upper echelons of the sport.

Harry has been at home in the North East since March and from our chat, it seems as though it’s been a productive lockdown for the Tour de Yorkshire stage winner who’s had his brothers Charlie and Toby to train with and been able to spend time with his dad which he normally only gets to do at the end of a season.

The time at home in the UK has helped him get settled into training after a very messy period before lockdown was introduced across the world. Harry had a few races such as GP la Marseillaise and Le Samyn GP but very quickly it became a scramble to get home from Spain where he was living in between races because of the ideal training roads and conditions.

“I was supposed to do GP Denain in France but that was cancelled along with training camps and other races” Harry explained. “I had to find a flight that wasn’t £400 as I was there in Spain when lockdown started. So I had five days of Spanish lockdown and came home on the 20th (March) to the UK and here it was like normal for four or five days before lockdown started here.”

“I could not have stayed in Spain as we had five days of not being able to leave the house unless we were going to a supermarket. The police checks were everywhere and if you didn’t have a bag and receipt with you, you were fined. You could not ride your bike outside; even in the mountains, the rural police were on it, so there was no getting away from it.”

“When I came back to the UK, there was super nice weather and so I’ve had two months of good training. Looking back, I took a break mid April and should have taken two weeks off the bike in March but the weather was so nice and I was keen to keep working on what I’d been working on Spain and there was hope we’d race in July but then as time went on, that became August.”

“I have had some good training here though at home in contrast to the guys in France and Italy who have been locked inside on a turbo for two months and it hasn’t really rained here until recently. I wasn’t riding the turbo at all and only did that in the last two weeks because it started raining. So the training was all on the road; 4, 5, 6 hour rides with training intervals and enjoying the sun whilst it was there …”

Asked was he tempted by eRacing, Harry replied, “I should have maybe done some eRacing but when I came back from Spain, I’d had five days mincing about in Spain (it had been raining and there was lockdown) and when I got back, I felt pretty unfit and everyone else was flogging themselves doing these eRaces.”

“As I won’t be racing until August, this has been a longer period of time away from racing than during the winter so I’ve just needed to work on the base and get some big miles in which I did. Then, in the last month, I have started doing more intensity as the racing gets closer!”

… continued after advert

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Rotor Q-Rings/Power Meter
One of Harry’s team sponsors is Rotor and this gave Harry an opportunity to test some chain rings he’d been looking to do for a while – Q-Rings (oval chainrings). “Pablo from Rotor, who deals with teams, was out in Spain with his son near me. He brought over some Q-rings for me to have a bash at and when I got home and I had the tools to put them on, I got Robin from Velotech Services (Rotor UK) to help me out.”

“It has always been something I wanted to try” Harry explained “and now I thought would be a good time as I have a few months before racing comes back. So I had nothing to lose as I was only doing base, tempo and threshold stuff. It was pretty cool to try them out and I’ve been riding them a lot since. When I first got them on the bike, it felt more efficient riding them”.

“When you use the round Rotor rings, you use the Rotor app which measures your pedal stroke over multiple rides and then tells you where you are applying the most force on the pedal stroke. It then can tell you the best position to mount the Q-Ring on the cranks because you want the Q-ring in the correct place so when you are pushing down, you have it in the best position. It’s to do with the peak torque of the pedal stroke when you are pedalling so Robin (Velotech Services) and Pablo (Rotor) helped me out with the app to get me into a position to transfer over to the Q-Rings and as soon as I changed, it took three or four days to learn to pedal them and then I really got into them”.

Harry has been a long time user of power meters. “I got my first power cranks back when I was a first year senior riding for Herbalife at the back end of 2013. Now all my bikes have them and they help quantify my riding so my coach knows what I am doing via the Training Peaks software. The data from the power meter means you can trace certain areas of your riding and test certain areas to see where you are weak or strong and adapt the training around that to improve”.

From Katusha to Ag2R
For Harry, the end of 2019 was an uncertain one as the Israel Cycling Academy announced in September they were buying out the team’s licence and from there, Harry moved to Ag2R. “Once I had the contract, it was quite nice to race out the last few races and I was looking forward to 2020”.

“Joining Ag2r was good as we had a team camp in November in the Alps where there was no riding and it was just about getting to know the team. That’s where the next camp will be too, a ski resort near Chambery (Chambéry is a city located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France)”.

“At that first camp, we got to try on the kit, meet sponsors and had meetings as well as go walking and hiking with the team. It was nice to get to know everyone which we didn’t have in Katusha pre-training camp. With Ag2r, we had the meeting in November for three or four days which really helped because when we went on the team camp in December, you’re not stressed trying to change the size of the kit mid camp etc.”

“There were a lot of things I gained at that first camp like I was able to give Bolle my glasses prescription in November and get my helmet with this special foam padding that only Romain Bardet had at the time. It was things like that which meant everything was sorted well before the training camp. Same with the bike and how it was set up and meeting people was nice too.”

Coast to Coast to Coast
Harry’s now looking forward to racing in August and will have plenty of miles under his wheels by then. Recently, he did a coast to coast to coast ride. “It was something some friends did four years ago and I know you can do it 100 or so miles each way because it is quite narrow across the country where we are.”
“It was an old college mate who wanted to do it and I gave him a bike whilst he was up here. He lives and works in London and got into cycling two years ago and he wanted to do it and I thought he meant there and back in a day but he meant there and then get a lift back! His dad was going to drive behind. Another college friend was involved who’s really fit from triathlons and he’d done six hour rides before.”

“We set off early when it was really cold and the friend who wanted to do it initially was taking a drink after an hour and a half and whilst putting the bottle back in the cage, was looking at that and rode into the back of me and went down and cut himself up pretty bad. Luckily a friend was driving over from the Yorkshire Dales to go biking and he offered to take his bike and another minute or so later, an ambulance going from Northallerton and James Cook hospital approached us so we stopped him and put my mate in the back.”

“As my friend’s dad had to go back with his son, that meant our support was gone so we ate whilst we were at the side of the road and put as much food in our pockets as possible and did the rest of the ride”.

It was certainly a long ride in terms of hours on the road, ten or so with stops, but Harry admits his longest ride in distance was at the team training camp in December when he did 220-230 km in just under seven hours.

Harry’s training has also seen him and Charlie put a gym in their dad’s garage which he says has been really good and part of a productive time at home. “I have been having a huge clear out at home and selling off loads of old bike stuff that was redundant that I’d never had time to get rid of it so it’s been really nice to be so productive and getting shot of stuff I don’t need anymore”.

That free time though will come to an end quite soon as the training is ramped up and the racing gets busy abroad when the events begin in August. “I haven’t spoken to my manager for 10 days and I think they were going review the schedule this week so I will have to give them a call later. I think I have two stage races in August and then the classics in September and October. It will be good to race and it is quite mad to think it will be so different to here. These countries had full lock downs and since May, they have been able to ride in groups of ten people”.

Harry admits that given a choice of riding domestically or World Tour, its World Tour every time and his time in the pro peloton has been a good one. “It has been good working my new coach at the team. He’s a nice guy and knows his stuff. We work well together and speak regularly and he understands me and so it’s really good training and I have confidence in him and what we are doing”.

Harry’s teammates include Romain Bardet and Oliver Naesen who was 7th in Het Niewsblad in 2020 and second in Milan San Remo in 2019 as well as third in Gent Wevelgem. Naesen is a rider Harry will be tasked to help look after at the classics. “Ollie knows his way round the races in Belgium” Harry explained. “It’s good to ride with them in that setting and learn from them and get to know them as well and it will be nice to see them at the camp in two weeks.”

Before that, Harry would like to ride some time trials should there be some he can ride before heading to the European mainland. “I’ve not been on the team TT bike since December but I have been training on a home TT bike and got my position similar so I am hoping it will be all right. Ultimately you need power which I hope will come through from my training”.

Thanks to Harry for the chat and good luck in July and the racing that should follow… Photos: Check out Harry’s Instagram – great pics!


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