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.
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!
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.
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.
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!