I hate rain and I’m not that much of a fan of watching sports. So it stands to reason that I should hate standing around in the rain watching sports. However, yesterday I had the pleasure and the privilege of witnessing downhill mountain bike history with my own eyes whilst I stood in torrential rain soaked to the bone.
Champery was a mess yesterday but one young lad came and cleared up. Danny Hart. Danny F-ing Hart. When he dropped in the start gate the crowd lit up knowing that this one lad can wow and entertain on the hardest of tracks and everyone knew he could be a serious contender for the stripes. Everyone started cheering and the excitement pulsed through the crowd. Then when he was 4 seconds up at the split the crowd started to really make noise. People everywhere were glued to the big screens and the course to see if he could stay upright the whole way down, so when the second split flashed on screen and he was 9 seconds up the crowd exploded. People were losing it, jumping up and down, banging anything within reach that could help them sound their excitement. I thought someone was going to flip a car and light a fire but first the crowd had to see whether Danny really could hold his time all the way to the finish. Danny Hart’s dad was next to us in the crowd and he was shaking like a shitting dog. Nerves and excitement were his torturers.
Danny rode the course unlike anyone else that day. Even the best and closest riders were stalling and dabbing but Danny rode with feet up and crafted skill the whole way down the course. He made the sodden clay death slide look like a flat graveled bobsled run. Then Danny threw that whip. What a way to finish a run and put the nail in any and all coffins, especially when he was eleven and half seconds up as he passed the line. Danny’s dad was on the edge of tears and you could tell he almost didn’t know what to do with himself. He wanted to jump the barrier to be with his son but knew there was still Gwin to come and he had to restrain himself for four more minutes to know what the final result would be. It was all down to Gwin but I think the crowd knew the winner was with them already. People were going berserk. Everyone, of all nationalities, were joined in the young Northern lad’s special four minutes. The crowd were deafening. Banners were thumped, tables turned over, screams erupted. Danny’s dad tore of his rain jacket and proudly showed of his Danny Hart World Champs 2011 t-shirt like a football fan whose team just won the FA Cup final with a hat trick in the 90th minute. Then Gwin’s first split was near Danny’s. No one else had made the same time on the top section all afternoon. Gwin could do it but then he went down. The result was in, the crowd blew up and Danny Hart stood on top of the world. Danny’s dad hugged people in the crowd and it was evident that years of helping his lad excel had all been pointed towards this result.
It was a thrilling afternoon of racing and I felt the whole crowd was happy that Danny had being victorious. He is at the top of his game and widely loved and respected by all riders and fans. And even though a lot of top riders went down, Danny’s win was fairly earned as he stayed up and rode the insane race course like his life depended on it. He danced on the edge, taking lines no one else attempted, but the whole time he was in control and looking smooth. Other top riders took tumbles and were placed into the spin cyclone of Champery, becoming almost passengers were Danny rode the brown slithering beast of a race course.
Some of you may remember that Danny Hart spent several years traveling over to New Zealand to race and ride. He was a really young lad back then and even though his skill and determination was evident back then, over the past few years he has really found his dancing shoes. I think this season has been the real start of a very special career. Let’s hope one day we get to see him dazzle in New Zealand again some day.