‘You take a step back to try and take a step forward’: Harry Tanfield plotting route back to WorldTour after signing for Ribble Weldtite

The 25-year-old joins the Continental outfit hungry for results after a complicated 2020 season

Harry Tanfield is looking forward to racing for himself after signing with Ribble Weldtite for the 2021 season, and is aiming for a return to the top tier of cycling as soon as possible.

The tumultuous 2020 season has seen a number of riders scrambling for contracts as teams either fold or face financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 25-year-old teaming up with the British Continental outfit in a move that will give him the opportunity to showcase his talents.

Tanfield was left with scarce options after Ag2r La Mondiale decided not to renew his contract and other WorldTour teams already full in what is a difficult, pandemic-afflicted transfer market.

“I was speaking to a few teams at a higher level, a lot of the teams this year are full, have re-signed guys they had from the previous year,” Tanfield told Cycling Weekly.

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“Unfortunately with [Ag2r], the team had a big clear out and I was one of the guys they didn’t want, they had a massive budget increase and they’ve just gone and bought a whole lot of other riders. I don’t think it really helps with the market at the moment with teams stopping.”

Tanfield says he had spoken with Ribble Weldtite fairly early on to sort a backup arrangement if Tanfield wasn’t able to find anything at WorldTour or ProTeam level, and is hoping to be able to repay their commitment to him with exposure and results.

“It’s been good that they were able to sort that, and they’d spoken with sponsors about me coming into the team. I believe I can bring a lot to the team in terms of media coverage, especially racing in the UK as well,” Tanfield said.

“Riding the bikes and the equipment and all that kind of thing. It’s gonna be good for the team and I’m looking forward to actually riding for myself, the last two years I’ve kind of just been riding for others the whole time.”

One of the main draws of signing with Ribble Weldtite was this opportunity to race for himself, a win-win situation for the Continental outfit to sign a WorldTour rider as Tanfield looks to achieve the results necessary to propel himself back up to the top tier.

“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and I know quite a few of the other guys as well. They want me to progress back up to a higher level, they want to be a part of that success in doing so. That’s something that I really appreciate,” Tanfield explained.

“I spoke with Tim from Canyon as well. Because obviously he would always take me back to help me out and try to get me back up to a higher level, but he’s struggling this year with budget and stuff. And to go from earning minimum wage, well it’s a wage in a team, to suddenly earning nothing, it’s not a job anymore it’s just a hobby, so Ribble Weldtite could get a wage together to cover expenses and justify me not having a job basically.

“I appreciate that with them and obviously you take a step back to try and take a step forward. Hopefully, with the race programme that we’ve got lined up, I can do that and the team want to be a part of that success and they won’t hold me back if I get an offer from another team. I just let them know and it’s completely fine. It’s a good setup and I have a good relationship with them.”

This is the second year in a row where Tanfield has had to stress over where he’ll be riding the next year, but says the move from Katusha-Alpecin to Ag2r La Mondiale in the 2019 off-season was more stressful than his experience this year.

“To be honest I was a bit more stressed out last year, with Katusha folding I literally got the message six months into my contract with Katusha saying ‘oh yeah the team is stopping’. The first six months of that year I did nothing, I’d just been riding for others and stepping up and just getting my head kicked in,” Tanfield said.

“Luckily, I was able to find a place with Ag2r on a one-year deal to see out my neo-pro contract. Obviously, the team is now stepping up a level and when the budget doesn’t matter I guess if they want to go and pay some riders a lot of money they can go and buy who they want.

“And because I haven’t raced this year that’s the other thing, I haven’t particularly shown myself. I didn’t show myself last year in the first part of the year because I was just coming into the sport, coming in at a higher level and then obviously this year there hasn’t been any racing, the year’s just been a complete write-off and I’ve never really got into the flow of the racing until the Vuelta really. Even the latter part of the season has been pretty hit and miss.”

The 2020 Vuelta was Tanfield’s Grand Tour debut, an opportunity he relished, getting himself into breakaways and proving himself amongst the top athletes in the sport.

“I really enjoyed the race. I mean, obviously, it was super hard. I didn’t look at the course every day…there was no easy day. It was just relentless. Just mountains, no flats,” he laughs.

“I was quite surprised by what I was able to do, to help the team and stay in the race for a long time.

“Obviously some days were just ridiculous. But a lot of the days I stayed in the peloton for the majority of the race up until the final climb, I’d get dropped and I’d just come back.”

If that’s not an adequate metaphor for Tanfield’s plan to return to the WorldTour, I don’t know what is.