Little more than 12 months ago, only the most ardent fans of British domestic racing would have heard of Charlie Tanfield - but now the 21-year-old is taking aim at the individual pursuit world record.
At the Minsk round of the UCI Track World Cup this month, Tanfield stormed to individual pursuit gold, setting a time less than 1.7 second off Jack Bobridge's world record - despite riding as an amateur for Team KGF in a competition which attracts the biggest national squads.
Alongside brother Harry, Dan Bigham and Jonny Wale, Tanfield also won team pursuit gold in Minsk – one year on from their surprise national championship success, when they upstaged British Cycling’s 100% Me Academy team.
Tanfield also won individual pursuit gold at the 2018 track nationals in January, beating Bigham in the final - a reverse of the previous year’s result –-with both riders forcing the national selectors to sit up and take notice of their success.
It's little wonder when you look at the times Tanfield has been posting in the individual pursuit – stopping the clock in 4.12.253 minutes in Minsk to become the second fastest Brit ever over four kilometres.
His winning time was faster than both of Sir Bradley Wiggins’ Olympic gold medal-winning performances, while the only Brit to go faster - Chris Boardman - set his mark in the now outlawed ‘Superman’ position.
Tanfield says he was set to go even faster than his 4.12 mark in the national final, too, had he not caught Bigham to mean an early end to the race. Now he believes – selection-permitting - Bobridge’s world record of 4.10.534 could be in danger at the Commonwealth Games on Australia's Gold Coast in April.
“From my ride at nationals, in the final, I went through the 3km split in 3.07. That would have meant I was on for a 4.10/4.11," Tanfield told RCUK.
“But then I caught Dan and the gun was fired, and that was the end of it. But when I did that 4.12 in the Minsk World Cup, we realised I was eight watts off breaking the world record - so we’re within shooting distance now.
"When I did that 4.12 in the Minsk World Cup, we realised I was eight watts off breaking the world record - so we’re within shooting distance now"
“It’s just about tweaking those fine details to get the record. Breaking it at the World Championships won’t happen, probably - we don’t get free rein with our kit, for starters [Tanfield would be on GB equipment at the worlds, rather than his Team KGF setup - ed.) - but the Commonwealth Games is a really strong chance.
“The velodrome there is meant to be really low friction, and it’s really warm as well so good air density is quite probable. We’ll see, anyway. If not, we can always go to altitude and see what we can do there!"
Tanfield and Bigham are now both training with the national team, with the World Championships being the short-term goal, and while the long-term future is unclear at the moment, Tanfield is keen to seize his chance.
“It is a massive opportunity," he said. “It’s a really good chance for me to show what I can do. If I could get to the Olympics, that’s going to be an absolutely massive achievement."
This season Tanfield will also join brother Harry on the road with the British UCI Continental team, Canyon-Eisberg, while he has further ambitions on the boards, too.
“It is a massive opportunity. It’s a really good chance for me to show what I can do. If I could get to the Olympics, that’s going to be an absolutely massive achievement"
“If I can fit it in, I want to have a crack at the hour record - not to beat Wiggins, obviously, that’s one for maybe in the future some time, but to see how I go," he said.
“That seems like a really cool project to do, and I’ll see how far I can get. I’d hoped to do it last year, but I didn’t get chance to do it. I’m saying this year, because it’s my last year as an under-23 and I want to set a benchmark for the age level.
“With the power I can do now - that's when I’m in road form - I can go around 52km [Wiggins current hour record is 54.526km - ed]. That’s providing my arms don’t give way - it’s really hard to hold that position, you know - and providing decent air density, too.
“It’s not one of these things that’s a given, you still need luck on the day, but we’re not a million miles away. If I can put out a few more watts later in my career then, I don’t know, [breaking the record] could be a possibility – we’ll see."
Look out for our full Next Big Thing Q&A with Charlie Tanfield, coming soon on RCUK.