The phone rings – it’s Viktor, VeloVeritas’ resident sage, critic and general cycling Nostradamus.
I steel myself; ‘Happy New Year’ I say.
‘Aye, Happy New Year to you, too – here, have you been watching the live stream from Rotterdam, it’s brilliant!’
Wow! I’m a tad shocked – praise from Vik?
‘We best look into this’ I say to myself – I duly logged-on for the finale and sure enough, first class coverage.
There was only one thing to do, get hold of one of the men responsible; and that’s how I came to be speaking to Mr. David Harmon.
Here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas…
No nice quiet January then, David?
“No, it was quite a last minute thing; Carlton Kirby did the Amsterdam Six but couldn’t do Rotterdam so he put my name forward.”
Eurosport tried the Sixes a few years ago but didn’t get it right – but the Rotterdam coverage was good this week.
“It’s an evolving thing, filming a madison is difficult because a lot of the time the action isn’t taking place at the head of the string.
“In Six Day commentary it’s the exact opposite of the road where the director leads and the commentators follow – at a Six, the commentators are track side and the director takes his lead from them.
“And it makes a big difference that Frank Boele, the race organiser is involved with all aspects of the coverage.”
There was no buffering at all when I watched, is it special technology?
“No, it’s all standard off-the-shelf technology the signal goes out from a TriCaster.
“People think that it video streaming is cheap technology but on the ground it’s exactly the same as TV coverage, the only difference is in how you distribute the signal.”
Do you have any viewing figures?
“Not specifics but it ramped up quickly all over Europe and North America with the only dip coming when the UCi streamed the World Cup cyclocross from Rome.”
How has the feedback been?
“Good – the first thing about marketing any sporting event is that people know that it’s on.
“You could build the world’s best football stadium out in the middle of the Fens – but if no one knows it’s there then no one will turn up.
“This technology could be a savior for the Six Days.
“The feedback to the organisation was good and I received a steady stream of positive comment on Twitter.
“And the good thing about Twitter is that it’s instant, folks will Tweet you right away if there’s a sound problem for example.”
Was Rotterdam your first Six Day commentary job?
“Yes, I’ve done a lot of madisons at Herne Hill for instance, and worked on the Track World Cups.
“But a Six is a different proposition, there’s just no let up.”
Are you at the Berlin Six?
“No, next for me is the Tour of Qatar, I think – but I’ve contacted the organisers in Berlin and Copenhagen about the possibility of us working with them.”
You and your co-commentator Tony Doyle have established a good rapport.
“Yes, we get on well – I’m actually surprised we’ve never worked together before.
“It’s not until you sit beside someone like Sean Kelly or Tony Doyle that you realise the depth of knowledge they have – drawing that knowledge out of them is part of my job, the viewers are wanting and waiting to hear more.”
The 100 K madison in the Sixes is gone forever, I think?
“Like it or not, everything is driven by TV, there’s no way round it – four or five hours is the maximum time for coverage.
“The sprinters break it up and of course the Dernys, the public love them.
“The public want it short and sharp, the 200 and 250 lap madisons are as much as they want.
“It was an exciting finale in Rotterdam which could have been decided on laps or points with four teams in with a chance – I actually thought that Mørkøv and Rasmussen would sneak it.”
Iljo’s cheeky ‘victory salute’ with eight laps to go upon grabbing the decisive lap must have been manna to you?
“That was an interesting moment to be commentating, perhaps the viewers couldn’t see it; but we did – the look of deflation from the other contenders.
“It was one of those; ‘that’s the end of that, then’ moments and you could see all the other riders heads going down . . .”
I know you have to be impartial but who do you have a soft spot for?
“I was very impressed by Jasper De Buyst, he’s just 20 but very mature for his years – he has a big future ahead of him.
“And you have to respect the ‘Oldies,’ Robert Bartko has been going for ever.
“The American riders Guy East and Daniel Holloway impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
“Tony spoke to them one morning at breakfast and gave them a lot of advice which they picked up on and could be seen applying that evening.
“It was nice to see Franco Marvulli again; I can’t see him staying away from the sixes after he stops as a rider . . .”
A London Six Day?
“I think so and in the not too far distant future – but you have to get the venue right.
“The Olympic track is big for a six at 250 metres and it’s location away from the heart of the city isn’t ideal. But a portable track could be the answer, maybe the Amsterdam/Rotterdam track?
“Manchester is another prospective venue.
“Tony Doyle has been working away at trying to get a London six together for years.
“There’s been talk of; “cycling been the new golf” for quite a few years now but those riders who picked up on that didn’t have the background to appreciate the culture of the sport – now they do and the I think the time is right.”
And will we be hearing you back on Eurosport, soon?
“I’ve been enjoying a wee bit of time off and I’m looking forward to working at the Tour of Qatar, if Eurosport speak to me then that’ll be nice.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with Yorkshire on the Tour Grand Depart and that’s taken up a lot of time over the last two years.
“When they put out the original press release it was on April 1st and a lot of people thought it was an April Fool gag; but we responded and have been involved ever since – and of course that’s building to a climax, this summer.”
What’s your favourite race?
“The Tour of Flanders; but I’m still not convinced by the new parcours – I liked it better with the traditional finish over the Bosberg.
“It doesn’t mean it’s an easier race now but I just liked the old route better.”
“It’s a difficult one; you walk a fine line between risking destroying the sport in the traditional Heart Lands and opening up new markets.
“In Belgium, Britain, France and The Netherlands there was always a link between bikes as a means of transport – but also the sporting side.
“But in countries like China and the Middle East it’s new to them and it’ll take time for them to accept that there’s a sporting side to the bicycle – it’s not just a means of transport.”
“I think that all of the attention towards him is deflecting the gaze from others.
“I was never a fan of his and the two or three dealings I had with him did nothing to change my opinion of him.
“I still retain that same outlook, but if you look at the top 25 riders in the 2003 Tour de France there are 23 who have been involved in some kind of scandal or had to retire early.
“Armstrong was just the best exponent of what they were all doing and I think that more raking over of the same coals doesn’t do the sport any good.”
We’ll finish on the big question – are you getting out on your bike?
“I’ve been doing a lot of biking – back to my roots on the mountain bike and spending time building bikes, too.
I had time off in the summer and the only race I watched on TV was Chris Froome winning on the Ventoux – I’d become a wee bit disillusioned with the sport.
“But Rotterdam has really rekindled my enthusiasm for the sport; some mornings it was five or six before I could get to sleep – I was wired!”
It’s good to hear of another man falling in love with the Six Days; let’s hope we can look forward to David and Tony talking us through another madison, soon.