He’d grown bored of the question in the build-up to the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire.
He didn’t object to it being posed and always considered his answer fully. But he was simply intent on looking forward. Not back.
“How do you improve on your Tour de Yorkshire debut?”
Maybe Tim Elverson knew all along. Maybe he didn’t. But either way, Harry Tanfield delivered the answer in emphatic fashion in Doncaster last Thursday.
The 23-year-old, who won one of team’s two combativity jerseys during a head-turning debut 12 months ago, powered to victory on the opening stage.
Holding off the peloton and outgunning his breakaway companions, not only did he clinch stage honours, he added the leader’s jersey and points jersey to the combativity prize he’d already bagged.
That’s how you better last season. In one fall swoop. And Elverson shrugged off any suggestion it was lucky. The Canyon Eisberg sports director said:
“You have to be in it to win it. Yes, day one was a shock to win the stage but we spoke about it the night before.
“We knew in some of these races the breaks were not getting caught. Whether that’s because it’s now seven-man teams not eight, who knows?
“We just knew we needed to be prepared that if someone was going to win it, it was going to be us.
“We did that and we did try to get Harry down the road on day one. That wasn’t luck, that was intentional.
“I definitely think if someone in that break deserved to get a win, Harry was that rider. So we made our own luck in that sense.”
Last season, the goal was simple. It was the blueprint followed by most, if not all, UCI Continental teams when pitched in against World Tour foes.
Get up the road, get some air time for the sponsors and compete for a jersey. Mission accomplished by Tanfield and Dexter Gardias.
It should not be forgotten, though, Chris Opie had also sprinted to third place behind top-tier fast men Dylan Groenewegen and Caleb Ewan on stage one.
However, Tanfield’s curtain-raising triumph in Doncaster this season meant the goalposts had been shifted irrevocably. Elverson added:
“While it is nice to go for the combativity and get someone in the break, we wanted to respect the leader’s jersey.
“We now wanted to sit on the front of the bunch and control the race. How good would that have looked for a Continental team?
“It was difficult when the hammer went down the way it did, though. And then having the incident with Harry and losing Alex all in one go, was not ideal.”
The brakes had been put the blue train by a series of lung-busting attacks from World Tour rivals in the lumpy opening to stage two.
There was to be no day of pulling the peloton, full of global stars, along in defence of the leader’s jersey.
Instead, Opie was distanced and when Tanfield punctured, Alex Paton and Andrew Tennant waited to pace him back into the bunch.
Unfortunately, while attempting to return the leader’s jersey to its rightful position in the main group, Paton was struck head on by a car.
Tanfield and Tennant swerved the incident, on a sweeping descent, later rejoining the group during a momentary ceasefire.
Paton, though, was not so fortunate. Forced to retire, he was extremely lucky he had only suffered cuts and bruises in the collision, for which the root cause remains a mystery.
The stage finished with James Lowsley-Williams putting Max Stedman in position for a superb 18th place on the Cote de Cow & Calf, the Tour de Yorkshire’s first-ever summit finish.
But damage had been done. With Opie and Paton withdrawn, the team were facing an uphill struggle over the final two days. Elverson said:
“I’m cautious to say we were unlucky because I believe you make your own luck. But I do think we were unlucky with Alex’s crash, he should have been in there.
“Harry would never have been out the back for as long as he was had we not had that crash. That was unlucky.”
Disaster struck again on stage three when Stedman suffered a shifting problem at the foot of the Cote de Silpho – the second of the day’s categorised climbs.
Forced to change bike, Tennant and Gardias this time dropped back to help return the 22-year-old to the race.
No such luck. While Stedman was switching steeds, Mark Cavendish had been dropped by the main bunch.
BMC grasped the opportunity to put the hammer down and distance the Manxman with a sprint finish in prospect on Scarborough seafront.
And that meant the Canyon Eisberg trio were getting no further up the road than the grupetto, which had formed around Cavendish.
Stedman, whose heroics on the Cote de Cow & Calf on stage two had left him poised 18th in the overall, saw his general classification hopes evaporate. Elverson added:
“Max’s gear problem was possibly a mechanical which could have been avoided.
“But we were unlucky where it happened and unlucky to then get caught in the Cavendish crossfire.
“James was 22nd in the sprint. Harry gave it a go at the finish but we should have had Dex and Tennant there to help him. Unfortunately, they were helping Max.
“So we did have a bit of bad luck. That’s just how it is. But we made our own luck again on the last day and went for it.”
Stedman, released from the general classification shackles and with a point to prove, was aimed at the break on stage four.
A rare chance for the Crowthorne climber to get out front and show off his talents to the masses lining the Yorkshire hills and the world watching on television.
He executed that plan brilliantly, too. Only an exceptional ride from Stephane Rossetto, of Cofidis, denied him the mountains jersey he coveted. Elverson added:
“In the end, I think it was better for Max. On any other day, I don’t think he would have found himself away with such an outrageous performance and he probably would have won that jersey.
“He was leading it and it got to the point where mere mortals would have had to slow down but obviously he was with somebody who was having an outrageous time.
“You have to bow your head to a great performance from that chap. Max did everything he could, he put himself in the game and he got second (in the KOM classification).
“He can be very proud of that. And the team had another day out front with the TV talking about us.
“It was some four days of bike racing. I’d like to think we may have earned an invite to come back next year.”
And what a prospect that would be, with the Tour de Yorkshire now arguably the biggest bike race in this country.
Just don’t ask Elverson how he’s going to better the past week!