Harry Tanfield will ride in memory of his late mother when he lines up for Great Britain in Sunday’s team time trial mixed relay at the UCI Road World Championships on home roads in Yorkshire.
The 24-year-old came close to pulling out of the biggest race of his career after the sudden death of his mother Clare at the end of August.
But instead Tanfield chose to race for Katusha-Alpecin at the Tour of Britain before making the short trip from his home in Great Ayton to Harrogate for the world championships, where he will be one of six riders – three men and three women – to compete for Great Britain in the new event.
“It happened a week before the Tour of Britain, and I thought, ‘Do I still want to come and race it?’ Tanfield told PA.
“The team told me I didn’t need to come but she’d want me to do it, and I kind of wanted to do it as well. Not for me, but for my family, just to give them some form of distraction for the week.
“They can sit and watch on TV or follow the race and get back to some kind of reality.”
Clare’s passing came shortly after Harry learned he was in the final selection for Sunday’s new format, and the same thoughts went through his head.
But just three days after her death, Tanfield – whose younger brother Charlie is a former world champion on the track – attended a training camp with his team-mates for the event.
“You’ve just got to get on with it,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss it anyway. I didn’t want to pull the pin on it because of that. She’d definitely want me to do it.”
The new event will see teams of three male riders complete one lap of the 13.8 kilometre circuit around Harrogate, with a team of three female riders setting off in relay as soon as the second man crosses the finish line.
Joss Lowden, Anna Henderson and Lauren Dolan will ride the second lap for Britain after Tanfield, Dan Bigham and John Archibald take on the first.
Tanfield, Bigham and Archibald effectively came as a package, selected in part because they know each other so well from having raced on the track for Huub-Wattbike, the start-up trade team which has claimed a series of World Cup and British titles in recent years.
“On paper we’re not outright the fastest individually,” said Bigham. “There are guys like G (Geraint Thomas), Alex (Dowsett) or Tao (Geoghegan Hart) who are all world class.
“But with the short run-in, only four weeks preparation, knowing each other so well means you can get into it so much faster. We’ve lived together, trained together and raced together.”
Bigham, an aerodynamacist who has worked in Formula One, is known for his attention to the finest details when it comes to preparing Huub-Wattbike on the track.
He has his magic spreadsheets ready for this race too, and has been passing on plenty of tips to the rest of the team who are keen to learn lessons they can use for the rest of their careers.
“The guys have been hugely helpful, they’ve got such great knowledge about what’s fast,” said Henderson, who still tries to insist she is not a time trial specialist despite her victory in the under-23 race at the British national championships in June.
“I’ve kind of boxed myself in there,” she admitted with a laugh.
Dolan was equally surprised to get the call, having had much of her season ruined by a crash involving a motorbike at the Tour of Brittany in early June. That left her with five fractures in her elbow and needing surgery which involved detatching her tricep.
“My recovery took a while and I don’t fare well on all the painkillers they give you,” she said.
“It took me a few days just to get moving again. I still have a bit of soreness and I’m not able to straighten by elbow, but thankfully you don’t need your elbow too much to ride a bike.”