Exclusive Danny Hart Interview: Back to His Winning Ways

Jan 9, 2018
by Alex Evans  


After last week's announcement that Danny Hart would be leaving MS Mondraker to join the UK-based Madison Saracen team, we had some pressing questions for him. Between the media frenzy around the news that was firmly focused on Danny and him travelling to Portugal for some training in the winter sun, he found the time to speak to us about his career and what's next.



What happened in 2017 – what wasn’t clicking?


In all fairness, it went pear-shaped in Lourdes even though I felt like I was in a good place and I’ve always done really well there. It seemed like I was on for another good start to the season and then when the weather turned and did what it did, I started on a bit of a downward spiral for the next few races; I crashed in the Fort William woods section and at Leogang, I snapped my chain.

After that, I found my rhythm a bit more but I was always constantly one or two seconds off the win. It was hard to find that extra bit of speed. In Val di Sole I had a crash and went from third or fourth in the overall to sixth, which wasn’t ideal. But, I managed to pull it together after the first three rounds.

I think that when these things happen at the start of the year it affects your confidence but it does teach you how to deal with the adversity.


Were you expecting to do as well as you did in 2016?


No, I wanted to carry on as I left off and when you’re winning races you can either stay there or drop off. It went the wrong the way for me last year.

Danny Hart Madison Saracen

Were you satisfied with three podiums last year or did you have more in the bag?


No, it was good! I was really happy with my third at Mont-Sainte-Anne in the rain and with how everything happened. I was really happy to get third there.

Lenzerheide is a funny track you know, I had a few negative comments about my run because it didn't look like I rode how I did the previous weekend in Andorra. But the track in Andorra means that you can ride a little looser and get sketchy here and there. In Lenzerheide you don’t really get that opportunity because it’s quite man-made so you can’t really get loose and push it as hard as Andorra.

When I won in Lenzerheide the year before, it was a picture-perfect run. Then when I raced in 2017, I had another really good run but with no crazy moments, I was just a little bit more controlled. I felt like my season was going in the right direction at that point.


How do you handle it when people are critical of your riding?


I know what I have to do but I had a tough weekend at Lenzerheide with a big crash – I cut my hands to pieces and grazed myself so with that in mind no one could say anything to me because I had a good ride and I was happy with it. But, I can understand it when people criticise me when it doesn’t look like I’m giving 100 per-cent and maybe I didn’t look like it was that weekend, but it certainly felt like it!

Danny Hart Madison Saracen

Did changing to 29inch wheels hamper your progress last year?


Yeah, I don’t know. With all that, it was a big thing during the last off-season but if you look at it now nobody is talking about it at all! Mondraker had a 29er ready last season but I chose not to ride it at the first World Cup because I wanted to ride the bike I’d been training on all off-season.

At Fort William, I jumped on the 29er and it was difficult to understand why I couldn't carry on riding like the previous year and how I felt I could. I'd just spent three years riding my 650b bike, so when I got on the 29er, and had only ridden it for a few weeks, it was wrong to expect to carry on riding like before, straight away. My head was all over the place with it.

To start with, this year, I will be running the Myst 650b bike because that is my go-to bike for racing and riding and I’m going to get that bike to exactly how I want it. Then I will give the 29er another go once I’ve got the 650b bike sorted but I’m certainly open to trying the 29er for sure, and I tried it last year but I just want to spend more time on it before racing.


Is trying to keep your head in the right place something you’re working on?


Yeah, it is as much a mental game as a physical one and, clearly, my head wasn’t in the right place.

Danny Hart Madison Saracen

What are your plans to make you a podium threat at every race?


Well to be fair even if my head isn’t in the right place I believe that I am a podium threat. The difference between being on the podium and winning is you need to have all of the elements that make up being a good racer in the right place. That’s what it takes to be number one.


Do you have any specific goal to help you get back up there?


I don’t think I went away – I made three podiums last year!

Last season the highest I had was 59 and I ended up 6th, so it shows what I can do after a bad start. I’ve got everything I need here now.


Where are you in your career, what’s next?


I go quite a long way back with most people on the race scene now and I started racing nationals in 2002/2003 when I was 11. I was allowed to race two years earlier than all of the other kids, I've been racing for 15 years now!

After 2016 I now know that I can win consistently and as I’m getting older, wiser and stronger I’m hoping to get back to the top of the podium. I want to get back to winning ways on the podium every weekend – that’s what I am about and I'm doing everything within my power to do that. I'm doing my best to get all of the necessary elements together to do that.

Danny on Madison Saracen

Do you think the move to Saracen will help with sorting things out?


Yeah, I believe so – being on an English team with Will Longden, who I’ve got on with for a lot of years now, is a great move. I first met Will and worked with him when I was on the MBUK/Scott team back in 2004 and we’ve always been friends and he's given me loads of advice over the years. Our relationship is on another level now and he’s another weapon in my toolbox to help me win.


What are you excited about on the new team?


It’s like a breath of fresh air – there’s no job too small. I can ring them and be like 'I need to do this or I need to do that', and they’ll sort it out. Anything is possible!

I’m heading over to Portugal now to do some winter training with Matt Walker and Alex Marin. It will be a good team. Everyone is really up for it and the team announcement seems to have gone down really well!


86 Comments

  • + 104
 We still wanna know how you sit down DannyWink
  • + 33
 Really comfortably since his balls have reached beanbag proportions.
  • + 191
 Anyone else read the interview in Danny’s voice?
  • + 11
 @asboites: Always.
  • + 5
 @asboites: hahaha! YES!
  • + 20
 @asboites: I did. thank god there was subtitles.
  • - 2
 @SiSandro: you think you 'd be comfortable sitting on your own balls ???Weird #wouldhurtlikehell
  • + 25
 Waiting for the Danny interviewing Ratboy video.
  • - 5
flag endlessblockades (Jan 9, 2018 at 10:24) (Below Threshold)
 I thought I heard that in 2018 Ball-Talk is out. #ballfree18 No cast-iron, wheelbarrow, ski lift discomfort remarks would be upvoted. Guess I heard wrong!
  • + 1
 Haha yep I did!! @asboites:
  • + 1
 sweet video
  • + 1
 @asboites: came here to ask the same question.
  • + 7
 Who in the world would ever accuse him of not giving 100%? Every time I've seen him ride, it looks like he's giving about 900%.
  • + 1
 @asboites: Holy shit YES
  • + 70
 His initials tell that this man was born for DH.
  • + 26
 How is it 2018, and I haven't put that together yet!? Ha!
  • + 9
 Have you seen his personal number plates on his car and truck? DH11 WON and DH16 WON.

Perfect!
  • + 2
 Agreed
  • + 58
 "Do you have any specific goal to help you get back up there?
I don’t think I went away – I made three podiums last year!"

The attitude of a true champion, rooting for you this year fella
  • + 37
 "What happened in 2017 ?" Mondraker made him ride a 29er
  • + 6
 And he said he will try again this year so your point?
  • + 3
 @bman33: mondraker MADE him ride a bike he wasn't happy with
  • + 2
 @savmeister: Then why didn't they make him ride it from the start if they had it? He said he 'tried' it in Fort William.
  • + 24
 Danny is one of my favorite riders to watch. When he’s on it’s simply epic seeing him tear up a track. He pulls off stuff in a way that looks like he’s going to splay himself all over the course but he holds it together. Kinda like listening to Keith Moon play the drums on some of those awesome old Who tunes. Sounded like it was gonna fall apart any moment but still really tight. Danny’s like the Moony of DH without all the drug problems of course.
  • + 8
 Great comparison, accurate.
  • + 15
 Shared an uplift with him once, big fan. Remember watching him on the Lapierre at Moelfre BDS when he was about 14, he did a huge pre-jump off the the big slab with barely any run up, still one of the best things I've seen done on a bike. Anyone who criticises a slight dip in form doesn't understand what it takes to be top 3 in the world.
  • + 14
 People critisicing the riding of the top 10 world cup riders is beyond me.
  • + 3
 Exactly. It's just like the lazy, beer swelling armchair quarterbacks criticizing the NFL players/coaches.
  • + 12
 Having him in a box with 'fragile' written all over it is somewhat precient.
  • + 12
 One of the raddest racers to watch. Good luck this season, Danny!
  • + 6
 I recall reading a copy of Dirt magazine probably in 2004 or so and saw a race report from on of the last of the British Series (BDS, Dragon, I don't know anymore). There was this tiny picture of him. Then I looked at the results, he had won every single race! Obviously I was expecting great things from him especially when he joined Nicolas Vouilloz on Lapierre. Silly enough it went pretty silent. At least I didn't read much about him anymore. In Dirt that is, don't know about PB. This was before the internet (for me, that is).

So obviously I would never slay him for not getting impressive results or exposure in the mean time, I'm actually still curious about how his time on Lapierre was. Loïc Bruni learned loads from Nicolas (having lived in the same region) so I'm curious how this shaped him. Even more than wheel- and ballsize actually.
  • + 3
 He was only 13 at the time. Are you thinking of Steve Peat?
  • + 8
 You can't learn much from a French if you're not French Smile
  • + 1
 Danny was also on the same team as David Vasquez at some stage. I'd love to hear how that was too!
  • + 1
 @Jacob13Green: Thanks. Yeah, must have been 2005 then. He was definitely riding Balfa back then.
  • + 7
 I can still see that image of Danny on the Balfa / Appalache going huge off a lip in a race (think its Scotland) and landing completely sideways on a bank - awesome shit.
  • + 1
 same he did this year in Lenzerheide in the left hander before the tunnel?
  • + 2
 @savmeister: Thats the one!
  • + 1
 Lenzerheide's not even close hahaa
  • + 4
 Always one of my favourite riders to watch along with Gwin and Brosnan, hope the new bike works out for you matey. You can't beat a loose winning run from Danny, the very definition of edge of the seat riding. Best of luck for 2018!
  • + 4
 Good man Danny! Was at the 2011 race in Champery in the winners enclosure when you came down. There was such a huge crowd, and I was buzzing for you, some woman beside me was also cheering you on big time. I turned around and asked her if she knew you "He's my son!" she said, and I automatically hugged her with delight. What a run.
  • + 2
 That'll be Sue, Absolute angel. Such a lovely person!
  • + 6
 best of luck this season Danny, we're always rooting for you mate
  • + 2
 TV can not top the excellent productions we have here on Pinkbike. I'd rather come here and read about and/or watch the riders and industry grow, over watching some made up fiction.

@Dannyjameshart, you're an inspiration to the industry and the riders that follow you. Good luck with Team Saracen. Watching you progress has been amazing; you're an amazing rider!

If you can Danny, try to get the the Pacific Northwest some time. You'll always have a place to stay!
  • + 5
 shouldn't the title of this article end with a question mark?
  • + 2
 DANNY HART?
  • + 7
 'I'm Ron Burgundy?'
  • + 1
 @tremeer023: exactly.
  • + 5
 Danny Hart is the Stig !
  • + 4
 What is Madison? Does anyone know?
  • + 2
 Clothing brand. Although it's probably nothing to do with them and I'll look like a tit, or you're being sarcastic, and I still look a tit.
  • + 4
 Madison are a large distributor in the UK, They distribute the likes of Shimano, Park tool, Odi, DT Swiss, Gamut etc etc. They bought out the Saracen brand and started the DH team around 2011.
  • + 2
 @redeyerider: I honestly had no idea what Madison was. The team certainly does not do a good job marketing the company. Thanks for the info.
  • + 4
 @jwrendenver: yeah, I guess as a distributor they don't really need to market as themselves, the brand's that they distribute are the thing.
  • + 3
 @chris-blakey: As someone else said, Madison are the largest distributor in the UK, but you were also correct, they own Madison Clothing, who are the clothing sponsor & co title sponsor for the team.
  • + 4
 @chris-blakey: he's a yank they don't do sarcasm !! Lol
  • + 2
 Good Luck Danny - hope the move works out for you. I can see the advantage of a 'British Team' for a British Rider - decent Tea for starters!
  • + 4
 Alteast this one didn't have a title of "the interview"
  • + 3
 All the best Danny! Can't wait to see you back on it for 2018!
  • + 2
 You're Welcome in my country Danny, have a nice pre season!
  • + 1
 HA Mondrakers are fast ask Bulldog!!! hes going to miss them.
  • - 3
 What i dont get is the “english team” point...second interview where insee the comment..i believe you can have all the equipment and components to test whenever and wherever you want to...i wouldn’t go to sarrancen from mondraker to go back to winning ways..is more the other way around..
  • + 7
 when you're Danny Hart you choose the team you wanna race with, so give him the benefit of the doubt Wink
  • + 3
 Basically mondraker were c@#$s
  • + 8
 Can you imagine how hard it is to understand him on a non-english team?
  • + 1
 As long as he doesn't ride like a Derek...
  • + 1
 Still no mention of Marc Beaumont? What the heck happened to him?
  • + 11
 A botched circumcision has put him out of action for this season at least.
  • + 2
 @murfio:
Ouch...
  • + 2
 @murfio: he went a cheap option, got it at a snip of the usual price.
  • - 1
 Saracen going to build a 29er for Danny to test
  • + 4
 They already have one. Matt walkers been riding it.
  • + 3
 @Reignrob: Their head engineer told me that they have both bikes pretty much ready now for side by side testing, and they are identical apart from the wheel size. The geometry has been tweaked from one to the other so the bars, pedals and saddle are in exactly the same position relative to one another, and the steering geo is adjusted such that the steering feel is also identical. It sounds like they have been putting in a shit ton of work into making them the same so the riders can test the difference in wheel size independently of anything else.

Hopefully Danny is going to be back on the top step this year!
  • + 1
 @jaame: sounds like danny never got on with the mondraker 29er so this sounds interesting. With the way the tracks are going I believe they might be a slight advantage with the 29er if the rider feels comfortable with the bike. Having said that I think he will stick with what he knows unless he's consistently faster on the 29er in testing.
  • + 3
 @Reignrob: Im not sure he could have got on with any 29er at that point, dont think it was a fault with the Mondraker so much - Sounds like many riders went to them out of fear that if they didnt the other racers would have the advantage over them.

As Danny said, its a pretty big change and if you are not 100% comfortable with it at that level it isnt going to work.

I can imagine the riders (not just Danny) will be spending a huge amount of time on 29ers if they have them available in the off season, get the clock out and see what actually works.
  • + 4
 I hope we don't have all this 29er hype again distracting from the racing, including champs we had 8 races and 5 different winners last year and only 2 races and 1 rider won on a 29er (all Greg) so clearly its still the same people winning on either wheel size so as Danny says its about being comfortable on your bike to go fast, some will end up more comfortable on 29ers but others wont so its more a personal thing like coil or air shocks so is nice to have both.

I do however worry that DH bikes are an expensive dying bread as sales are low when everyone buys enduro bikes so having a 650 option and 29 option is only going to make things more costly Frown
  • + 3
 @maglor: Im not sure it distracted anybody but internet geeks and the riders actually involved - It only distracted the riders due to potential performance advantages but many things do that, like changing to a new bike, new tyre / suspension sponsor, injuries etc.

It will be business as usual, 29ers or not in 2018.

There is realistically still far too much choice in DH bikes than is realistically needed, motocross has nowhere near the amount of choice available and as amateur DH isnt a the same level as WC nobody is going to 'need' to change to larger wheels as Si Paton suggested to be competitive, in national events there are seconds between people not tenths and as Danny said you will probably be slower if you swap between wheel sizes as you just wont be comfortable on both.

Dh bikes are also cheaper than they have ever been, just like all bikes are - yea a top end bike with fox / carbon everything will be £10k but you can get an awesome bike like the Canyon Sender from £2300, thats what my first 'proper' DH bike cost back in 2002 and it would run rings around it in terms of performance.

I think we will go forward with plenty of DH bike choice and riders will choose a wheel size and stick to it for the season, unless we have any completely tripe DH tracks that are just berms / jumps of course, only the unprepared guys will be swapping wheels as they search for answers and advantages.
  • + 1
 As he said in the interview with dirt after the season, people will test both and the one that yields the highest average speed between point A and point B is what they will use. It's that simple.
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