Danny Hart had an incredible end to the 2019 season when as the last man down the hill he was the deciding factor in the overall title fight between Loic Bruni and Amaury Pierron. After laying down one of the most impressive race runs in recent years Hart managed to take his first win since 2016 and hand the title to Bruni. We caught up with Danny to talk about his experience during the dramatic finale to the 2019 season in Snowshoe, Mullet bikes, and how he is keeping busy during lockdown.
How were you feeling heading into this year’s racing?
Yeah, it’s been good, I was just about ready. Obviously, me and Sophia had our first child in February so that took a little bit away from preparation potentially but I was ready to go and I was excited about racing. After finishing the season like I did it was a shame that has all been taken away from us because of current proceedings.
Is is frustrating to have had such a high note at the end of last year and had a good offseason to now have the season in limbo?
Yeah, it’s frustrating but there is nothing we can do about it. We can only concentrate on what we can change or control, and that’s not one of them. It was annoying, but it has given me more time to spend with my family and prepare even more for when we do end up going racing. I’m not really sure when that is, but I have been working hard to do what I can to stay fit and work on my preparation.
What was your aim for this year before the season hit difficulties?
Well, I was aiming to try and kick off where I left off last year in America. Being at the sharp end every weekend and that’s where you sort of allow yourself to take the win as I did. Just putting yourself there week in week out, doing the right thing, will eventually come good. Like I say, that happened last year so I need to get that back going again.
Going into the final round last year at Snowshoe, what were you expecting out of that weekend’s racing? Were you thinking you needed to push it for a win there?
I wasn’t thinking anything like that, I knew my speed had been really good all year and then in the second half of the season even better again, I had won a couple of qualifying runs and I was doing well in the races but I was just not bringing my A-game for finals. But I wasn’t really expecting any more or any less, I didn’t have any pressure on me. So It was strange having a race after the World Championships in Canada the week before, and then we went to Snowshoe. It’s a funny old town and I wondered where the hell we were going, to be honest. Once we got there it was really nice and really good, so there wasn’t any pressure.
I knew I had to do a couple of things to keep my position in the overall, I had to beat Loris and there were probably a couple behind me that were biting at my heels so I had to beat them guys. It was strange because obviously we didn’t have our setup from Europe and all we did have was just like a market stall stand and yeah there was no pressure, it was quite a relaxed weekend. I enjoyed it, when I first walked the course I wasn’t that excited to ride it. It looked a bit different to what we were used to, but as time went on I just enjoyed it and obviously took the win.
Was it strange then to not have World Champs after the final World Cup?
I remember when I was a junior I think we had World Cups after the World Champs, but I have never done it as a senior so it was a little bit weird I guess but it was just another race, to be honest. So it was quite easy to just carry on doing what we were doing.
Did you know dropping into your race run in Snowshoe that you were deciding the overall title?
A lot of people obviously watched the race at home and think ‘ahh it's a really exciting race and this that and the other’ but for me, it was just another race and I had no idea what was going on at the bottom. So yeah it was just another day which is good, but it sort of sucks because it sounds like it was a good race to watch. To watch it live as like a fly on the wall would have been excellent.
Heading into Snowshoe, it had been a while since your last win at the 2016 World Championships, does this weigh on your mind at all?
Um not so much. Maybe a little bit, but it was more that every weekend I was consistently 3rd, 4th, 5th. I was on the podium but just not doing quite enough to win and that was really upsetting after a full season of doing that I was a bit gutted. So it was good to get the monkey off my back and get a win.
Both you and Troy were very consistent with your results last year, is there any strategy to keep getting similar results race to race?
For me, I don’t try and ride in a consistent manner, I just do each race at a time. I know Troy, he sort of potentially doesn’t push himself to his absolute maximum until he’s nearly falling off, but that’s not the case for me. I’m pushing as hard as I can at every race to try and win so I don’t know. Me and him have been quite consistent for all of our careers, to be honest, so it must just be something we have got down.
Looking back to the start of 2019 you were one of the first riders to race on mixed wheel sizes, what was the reasoning for trying that out?
Obviously with me being smaller in height that was one of the reasons, but I had been testing with 29ers all winter and that seemed to be what I was going to go with. Then my Team Manager had gotten the linkage to make the mullet set up and we had finished testing all of our normal stuff and then he said ‘why don’t you try this’. So that was what I did and I was amazed by how much I liked it and that was the reason I carried on with it.
What benefits were you feeling from the setup?
I could get in and out of the turns quicker where I was riding in Portugal there were lots of corners and I found that like I said I could just get in and out of them much more committed.
Do you think we will see more riders make the switch?
From what I can see, it does look like more people are going for the mullet setup. Last year with myself and Loic riding the mullet... even Laurie was potentially on mullet when he won. I’m not entirely sure but he did go to it at some point. Yeah, it works and I did try and go back to my 29 setup halfway through the year, at Fort William, but I just didn’t feel as comfortable so I just went back with the mullet setup for the rest of the year.
How have your sponsors been with the fact there is no racing and they might be facing their own troubles?
Yeah for me it has been quite good so far. Obviously, Madison is my main thing and then I have a couple of personal sponsors on the side. Just one of them has had to pull the reigns on payment and salary because they aren’t selling anything and there’s a point where you can’t actually argue with them, everyone is going through this together and everyone has to sort of stick together through it. We will come out the other side and it will all be sweet hopefully.
Do you think we will see any racing this year?
I’m really hopeful, I have heard things about racing through September and October. If that doesn’t happen then it’s not going to happen. But I’m really hopeful that we do get to race.
How if anything would it affect you if racing was squashed into a small space of time?
That would be fine for me, I would rather do that normally and have more races. We could cram a lot more in, it might be good for the future if they see they can do some back to back races it might get us more races in the future.
How are you staying motivated with your training with no sign of racing kicking off?
The lovely weather. I look out the window every morning and I see the sun in the sky and blue skies, I just get out on my bike and even if I don’t have to go for a trail ride or road ride I want to. So that’s what is keeping me going right now. I’m just sat now with my motocross bike in bits playing with that so yeah it’s just taking each day at a time. Obviously having the baby is good and it's a good time to spend time with her and my wife, so yeah it’s just taking it as it comes. As I said it’s pointless getting stressed about something we can’t control.
How have you changed up your training with the extra time before the season is set to begin?
The first three weeks of the lockdown, I was on a strict program doing what I could in my home gym and doing a lot of miles of my bike. Then I had a week off and we are just coming into a new block of training which I am just taking on a day to day basis because from what we can tell there is not going to racing for quite some while. To be under a fully strict program for the whole time you would potentially get a little bit burnt out. I spoke to my coach the other day and he said if they go racing when they are scheduling then it would be the equivalent and having two full off-seasons. So yeah it’s a lot of time.
What are your plans for the future once everything looks a bit clearer?
Well as soon as they open up the bike parks and the trails, I will hopefully be away practising wherever I can and just seeing what happens, take it as it comes. Hopefully, get the van packed and head out into Europe to ride and race.