Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeInterviewsDavid Harmon - "The Rotterdam Six has rekindled my enthusiasm for the...

David Harmon – “The Rotterdam Six has rekindled my enthusiasm for the sport”

-

David Harmon
Dave, hopefully concentrating on his research in the Press Room. Photo©CyclingWeekly

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.”

David Harmon
Dave’s commentary partner Tony Doyle studies the notes before going on air. Photo©DHarmon

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.”

David Harmon
Dave Harmon (L) sitting with Sean Kelly in the Eurosport Tour de France booth, whilst Emma Davies watches on. Photo©Martin Williamson

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 . . .”

Iljo is wel known for his victory salute, this one at the Copenhagen Six in 2012.
Iljo is wel known for his victory salute, this one at the Copenhagen Six in 2012.

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.”

Mondialisation?

“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.”

Lance?

“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.”

David Harmon
Dave is working with Richard Hallett (@hallettrichard) at Hallett Handmade to build his new bike, and by the looks of this craftsmanship it’ll be a cracker.

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!”

David Harmon
Dave underplays his own cycling, but he’s pretty good – a mean tandem rider too. Photo©DHarmon

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.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Gary Wiggins – a Legend with a Tragic End

The late Gary Wiggins’ sister Glenda Hughes, took to social media recently to remind us that some 13 years have passed since the big Australian died under mysterious circumstances. Wiggins had many sides – depending on how you knew him – which prompted us to re-run our review of his European glory to tragic end.

Dimitri De Fauw

It's easy to write an obituary when one of your heroes dies - probably more so if you don't know them well. There's just the legend, palmares, anecdotes and the sadness. But I knew Dimitri De Fauw, not well, but I worked at maybe half-a-dozen Six Day races where he was riding.

Gent Six Day 2016 – aka. the 76th Six Days of Flanders-Ghent

Historically cold, wet wintery nights meant just one thing in cycling, Six Day racing. In recent years that has really only meant the ‘Zesdaagse Vlaanderen-Gent’ (Six Days of Flanders-Ghent). This great race has continued to be successful during years when many of the other ‘classic’ Six Day races of Europe left their buildings, literally, for the last time to drift into cycling history.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Day Two

I’d forgotten the raw horror of a Frank Zander gig; ‘If I Had a Hammer’ was blasting out at around 11:00 pm and it occurred to me that if you’re a bad musician then Germany and the Berlin Six Day 2012 is the place to be.

Nolan Hoffman – “My aspirations now are on the track”

The current flag bearer for black track cycling Nolan Hoffman, hails from South Africa - and there's irony in that, given the vile apartheid regime which ruled the country for so long.

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 – Day 1

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007. Kris picked me up at Dusseldorf Weeze airport at tea time yesterday (Wednesday), it's actually only about two kilometres from Holland so it wasn't long before we found a frites stand. Hasselt is in the Limburg region of Belgium, Flemish speaking and with a population of about 70,000. The local tourist office brochure tries hard to talk the town up but there's not much to say - a nice-enough place though.

At Random

Podium Number 1 of the season and a chance meeting with Kurt Asle Arvesen!

On the 28th March my Asfra Racing Team (and support club) headed to Montreuil sur Mer in France. The race had the mixed characteristics of a race in France, a Belgium kermesse and almost like a criterium in the UK. 23 laps of a 3.8km circuit was the order for the day... oh, and I met Kurt Asle Arvesen...

An Introduction to Six Day Racing

Six Day races; they're all fixed, aren't they? Yeah, for sure... all you have to do is take a lap from Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli when they are at 97.5 % instead of 'full-gas'. That's maybe 57 kph instead of 58 - Easy! That'll be how then-reigning World Champions, Bob Hayles and Mark Cavendish, were 34 laps down at Ghent last year: because it's so "easy". The truth is that the Sixes are 'choreographed', but if you don't have the legs, you can't win.

Steven Lawley – The New Scottish Road Race Champion for 2015

It wasn’t ‘til after the ‘25’ Champs that we managed to catch up with Steven Lawley (Neon Velo) – he’s a busy man, netting another two wins since his fine victory in the Scottish National Road Race Championship where he pushed multiple ex-champion, Evan Oliphant (Raleigh) off the top step of the podium. And in the meantime his team mate, Peter Murdoch scooped the aforementioned ‘25’ title at Irvine.

Tour of Britain 2006 – Day 4: Stage 4, Wolverhampton to Birmingham

In the next day's stage four, Manning did indeed go up the road. Third place on the stage was the reward for his efforts, behind Mark Cavendish (GB and T-Mobile) and the winner, crafty Frederik Willems (Belgium & Chocolade Jacques). Tour of Britain 2006.

Tour of the Campsies 2020 Goes to Cameron Richardson

I thought I’d check out what where the expression, “awa’ the Crow Road” came from before Davie and I headed for the Tour of the Campsies; ‘Crows take your soul to the hereafter it’s thought in many cultures and superstition.’

Stuart Balfour – Dave Rayner Fund ‘Rider of the Year’

Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France, was special. The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’ As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche.