- Macky Franklin
October 15, 2014, 17:35 BST,
October 15, 2014, 18:35 BST
Wrapping up the 2014 enduro season
Tomorrow, I fly back to New Mexico after my first trip to Europe in 12 years. I’ve spent the last four weeks traveling between France and Italy, eating great food, meeting great people and racing some of the biggest enduro races of the season. It has been busy, awesome and exhausting.
The lead up to my trip was similarly crazy. From the Big Mountain Enduro series finals in Moab, Syd (who finished fifth overall in the series), Sean and I (fourth overall in the series) headed back to Taos. We spent a day emptying and cleaning the Sprinter van then Sean headed to Tennessee, and Syd and I started packing.
Three days later we loaded up the Rockmelon (my little orange car) and headed to Crested Butte. After five hard days of racing at the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro (I finished sixth and Syd finished eighth), we drove to Durango and the next morning flew to Las Vegas for Interbike. After five days of having (good) wrenches thrown into our sponsorship plans for next year (more on that when things are finalized) we headed back to Taos. Then we had another four days to pack before I flew to France to race and Syd flew to Italy for the Breadloaf writer’s conference.
My first race of the trip was the Trans-Provence. This is the best-known multi-day enduro stage race in the world and it did not disappoint. Over the course of the six-day race we climbed over 7,700 meters (25,000 feet) and descended over 13,700 (44,500 feet) and rode more than 250 kilometers (150 miles). The trails destroyed equipment and left many racers, myself included, with cuts and bruises. It was a true backcountry enduro race and, excluding the racers who had raced it in the past, everyone was racing it blind (without pre-riding). This meant that I had to balance racing against riding cautiously because a mistake could mean anything from a shredded tire to a helicopter evacuation.
In addition to the lack of pre-riding, the trails in Provence are steeper, rockier and slower than most of the trails in the US and it’s clear to me that these things are weaknesses in my riding. I struggled to carry speed through the tight, steep switchbacks and regularly chose poor lines through the rocky sections, which resulted in numerous mechanicals and crashes. These issues cost me over 30 minutes and destroyed any chance of a top-10 finish (which was what I was shooting for). The first day I had a bad crash on the last stage of the day and pulled my hamstring. I was able to finish the stage but the injury bothered me for the next five days and subsequent crashes further aggravated it. I also had a number of mechanicals, during both timed and transfer stages, and eventually finished 33rd overall, despite some top-10 finishes on individual stages.
From Trans-Provence I headed to Finale Ligure, Italy for the Enduro World Series finals. The trails in Finale were also technical but in a very different way. There were some tight switchbacks but the dirt wasn’t as loose and most of the trails weren’t as rocky. Instead we had to thread our way through tight trees and try to find the fastest line through (or over) large rock features. The race was comprised of six stages spread over two days and unlike the other EWS races I raced this year, there were no assisted transfers (shuttles or chairlifts) so we pedaled over 90 kilometers (55 miles) carrying everything we needed to compete.
The first day started off well. I finished the first three stages without any major issues and finished 104th, 76th and 87th. I was close to 10% behind the leaders (fairly standard for me at the EWS races) on all three and went into the fourth stage ranked 90th out of the 250 or so pro men.
Unfortunately I took an EXTREMELY poor line on the fourth stage and crashed, burping about half the air out of my front tire in the process. I hopped back on my bike and continued to race but eventually rolled the tire because of the low pressure, crashed again and was forced to run the rest of the stage. This put me in 217th for the stage and lost me multiple minutes, putting me comfortably outside of a good result. The next day I had two solid runs and finished 98th and 86th. Once the total times were calculated, I was surprised to learn that I still finished 122nd, just within the top half, despite my multiple-minute error.
While in Finale, I stayed at the Ciapin Mountain Bike Lodge. It’s a cool little lodge located about 15 minutes from Finale Ligure with riding just outside the gate and five sheep roaming the property as the living lawnmowers. There’s a wood-fired pizza over (which I obviously took advantage of) and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a bike-related vacation in that part of the world.
Next I headed back to France (after a quick stop in Bergamo to visit 3T and Vittoria tires) for the Roc d’Azur. This is the French equivalent of the Sea Otter Classic only ENORMOUS. Something like 18,000 people show up to race and the exhibitor space is close to the size of Interbike. I spent four days at the show, helping at the Vittoria tires and Mohawk Cycles (the French Pivot distributor) booths and would have raced the EnduRoc (Roc enduro) but it was sold out. I also ran into fellow Cyclingnews bloggers, Mike and Mary, who had both competed in the Roc Marathon race.
I’m looking forward to being back in the US for a couple of months now while Syd, Sean and I finalize things for next year. Then we’re headed back to New Zealand to work on our steep technical switchbacks and prepare for the first round of the Enduro World Series in Rotorua in March 2015.
- Cycling News
July 26, 2014, 18:25 BST,
July 26, 2014, 18:52 BST
Racing in Snowmass, Durango and Keystone
The past few weeks have been full - full of racing, full of driving, full of riding and full of fun. We have already raced the first three stops of the Big Mountain Enduro and have driven over 1000 miles. We’ve tubed down the Animas, boogie boarded on the Arkansas, ridden in numerous bike parks, pump tracks, and skate parks, soaked in some very cold rivers and drunk a fair bit of Santa Fe Brewing beer. Summer is the best!
Our first stop was Snowmass for the first round of Big Mountain Enduro (BME). It was a big weekend for us: it was our first US race as a team, we had our new team kits (thanks Primal), we had just gotten Sean’s Sprinter van wrapper and we had just received our custom team pop-up tent (thanks Cadence Promotions). On top of that, I had a great weekend and finished in the top-five in four of the seven stages and seventh overall, missing the podium by less than 10 seconds after an hour of racing. Syd and Sean both had decent weekends as well, a few insignificant crashes but they finished the weekend strong.
The next day we headed to Durango for round two of the BME. Durango is one of my favorite venues. The courses are long and hard and truly backcountry. You have to carry your own food, water and repair equipment and a bad crash would result in a long rescue so it feels like a true enduro race to me. Unlike Snowmass, we arrived with enough time to pre-ride all of the courses so when the race rolled around, Syd and I were ready to go. Unfortunately Sean had crashed pre-riding in Snowmass and decided to sit out the weekend to give his back some time to heal.
Given the more pedaly nature of the courses, I chose to ride my Pivot Mach 429 Carbon (29" wheels with 100mm rear suspension, 130mm front) instead of my Mach 6 Carbon and it was the perfect bike: light, snappy and fast-rolling. The race went well for me, I won two of the four stages (the second and fourth) and finished fifth overall (my first BME podium appearance). I also learned a valuable lesson: always do your pre-race bolt check or risk having a chain-guide bolt back out on you causing you to lose two minutes fixing it. Oops. Syd also had a good weekend, finishing eighth in the pro women.
We then had a weekend off between the Durango and Keystone rounds, so after a quick visit with Osprey packs in Cortez, Colorado, we headed to Salida. We spent the week recovering, eating, celebrating the 4th of July and exploring the riding in the Salida area (if you’re ever there, make sure to check out the section of the Rainbow Trail west of the Bear Creek trailhead off of CR101). It was a great week and we headed to Keystone refreshed and ready for more racing.
It would be hard to find two more different courses than the Big Mountain Enduros in Durango and Keystone. Durango had a ton of pedaling (both during and between stages), had no lift access and required you to carry everything you needed to make it through the whole day. Keystone, on the other hand, had very little pedaling, all of the runs were lift access (with the exception of one 10-minute pedal transition) and all of the stages finished at the bottom of the mountain so you could refuel and fix any mechanical issues.
For the most part, things went smoothly for Syd and I. We each had a few small mechanicals, but nothing too bad and we both finished 12th overall in the biggest Pro fields so far. Unfortunately Sean had more significant mechanicals on two of the stages, which ruined his overall time for the weekend but he still managed to beat a few people who didn’t have any mechanicals.
Now we’re in Winter Park preparing for the only Enduro World Series race on US soil this year. It’s going to be great to compete against the best of the best again and see how I stack up after another few months of training. Wish us luck!
- Macky Franklin
June 11, 2014, 16:00 BST,
June 11, 2014, 21:50 BST
First domestic race of the year
After close to four months of international travel, Syd and I returned to Taos, New Mexico in early May and were greeted by unseasonably cold weather and snow. It was a bit of a shock, so we spent the first few days recovering from our trip by eating our body weight in green chile to make up for all of the green chile that doesn’t exist in New Zealand, Chile and Peru.
Fortunately we recovered in time to attend the Outside Bike and Brew Festival in Santa Fe a couple weeks later and led the Tour de Brewer, a three-brewery tour ending at Santa Fe Brewing Company, and a trail-speed skills clinic at the La Tierra trails. Our new team kits arrived from Primal just in time for the festivities and we had a blast riding, drinking good New Mexican beer and hanging out with other like-minded people who believe that bikes and beer are an unbeatable combination.
From Santa Fe we headed to Tempe, Arizona (via the Grand Canyon) to visit Pivot Cycles and spent the next few days hanging out with the Pivot crew and a group of Pivot dealers from Colorado, Utah and Texas who were there for Dealer Palooza. Sean, our third teammate, joined us there and we got to tour Pivot headquarters, ride the trails of South Mountain and learn a little more about what makes Pivot such an awesome company. We also got to follow Chris Cocalis, the founder of Pivot Cycles, down some of the more technical trails in Phoenix and I’m fairly certain he puts all Pivot-sponsored athletes to shame when it comes to descending ability.
Once back in Taos, Syd and I spent the next week training in Angel Fire then headed to Durango with thirteen 10 to 14-year-old boys as part of the annual Field Institute of Taos summer mountain bike camp. It was great. The kids rode really well, learned a lot and had a great time despite multiple crashes, turtles, and encounters with spiny, prickly or otherwise unfriendly Durango flora.
We got back this past Thursday, just in time to get a pre-ride in on Friday for our first US race of the season, the New Mexico Enduro Cup in Angel Fire. It was great to race so close to home on trails that we knew and both Syd and I had a successful weekend. I won the pro men’s race by almost 40 seconds and Syd finished third in her first-ever pro race.
Now we’ve got another week of downhill training in Angel Fire before we hit the road for the rest of the summer. First up, the Big Mountain Enduro in Snowmass, Colorado. Can’t wait!
- Macky Franklin
May 01, 2014, 21:30 BST,
May 01, 2014, 20:37 BST
Racing in Peru
The Inca Avalanche is a mass-start downhill race mimicking the format of Mega Avalanche. It starts at the top of Abra Malaga (approx. 16,000 ft) and finishes in Tanccac in the valley below (approx. 10,000 ft) and fastest times are generally around 23 minutes. It's located in the Sacred Valley of Peru (the same valley where Machu Picchu is located) and the race actually goes through some Inca ruins. Aside from the location and vertical drop, another thing that makes this race different is that the entire mountain is fair game, including the paved road, so riders can choose any line to get to the bottom. Admittedly, there's a pretty well defined trail for most of the descent that everyone takes, but the top section is extremely open (and slippery) so the mass start is pretty entertaining!
Unfortunately, this was a bit of a rough weekend for Team Santa Fe Brewing - Pivot Cycles. We flew from Chile to Cusco, Peru on Tuesday and Wednesday morning I woke up with a bad cold. I felt a bit better for our pre-ride on Thursday but Friday was so wiped out that I spent most of the day sleeping. Sean felt good Friday so he decided to do another pre-ride and a few minutes into the course hit a submerged rock and exploded his front wheel. He also double-flatted and hit his leg on a rock.
The next day, Saturday, we had two qualifying runs on the course. Sean woke up feeling sick, not to mention sore, so he decided not to race, so Syd and I headed up without him. This was my best day. I felt good and had two great runs. The first run I finished sixth (in 23:45) and the second I won (in 23:38), solidifying my front-row call-up.
Syd also had a good first run (third), but at the beginning of the second run started to feel nauseous. She started anyway and made it about halfway down the course before pulling off the trail and vomiting until the police escort picked her up. When we returned to our hostel we found out that Sean had also been sick to his stomach all day so both of them were out for Sunday’s finals.
On Sunday the weather was beautiful. For the first time I could see the mountains around the start and the trails were running drier than I'd seen them yet. Unfortunately after a decent start I got taken out into a mud hole and then sliced a hole into my tire due to an extremely poor line choice. At that point I knew I wasn’t going to have a good finish (by the time I got my pack off to grab a CO2 cartridge 30 or so people had passed me) so I took my time fixing my flat and decided to enjoy the course. Apparently I started having a bit too much fun though and wasn't paying attention as I passed someone and ran straight into a huge rock, flipped over the bars and landed on another rock. I also flatted my front tire and without a second tube had to ride the rest of the run with a flat front tire and a severely bruised back.
It has now been a couple of days since the race and everyone is feeling much better. We spent all day yesterday exploring Machu Picchu (and hiking to the top of 11,000-foot Machu Mountain) and are looking forward to exploring some more ruins today, this time by bike!
- Macky Franklin
April 24, 2014, 1:30 BST,
April 24, 2014, 2:34 BST
Leaving behind New Zealand to race with the Santa Fe Brewing – Pivot Cycles team
The rest of our time in New Zealand was incredible. Rotorua exceeded our expectations with great riding, great people and a surprising number of apple pies. We spent a good bit of time exploring the Whakarewarewa (pronounced fak-a-ree-wa-ree-wa) mountain bike park, right in the center of town, as well as some of the less-groomed trails of the surrounding areas. We spent a couple of days shooting with Graeme Murray and he did a great job of highlighting the incredible geography of the Rotorua area. I have to say, Ponga palms are some of the coolest trees ever!
From New Zealand, we headed back across the Atlantic to Chile. We met up with the third member of the Santa Fe Brewing – Pivot Cycles team, Sean Leader, and the three of us spent a couple of weeks in Santiago, riding with some of our Chilean friends and training for the first Enduro World Series.
It is autumn in Chile and when we got to Nevados de Chillan (the location of the EWS) the trees were already changing colors. It was beautiful and the trails were equally awesome. We spent Thursday and Friday pre-riding all six special stages (i.e. timed stages). The trails were an interesting mixture of rocky and loose up high, then soft and tacky as we descended toward the base. The transfer stages included chairlifts, some pedaling and quite a bit of hike-a-bike and after four days (two days of practice and two days of racing) I was pretty beat. My favorite stage was the third one, Candonga, because it had the most varied terrain. The top was fast and rocky, followed by a sandy section, then steep, grippy dirt, and finally a super-fast section with berms and big jumps. And all of this in just over four minutes!
Both Sean and I raced and overall had a very successful weekend. We both had a few small crashes, but walked away without any lasting injuries. We had no mechanicals, no flats, didn't miss any of our starts and got to test ourselves against the best Enduro racers in the world.
I finished 47th out of the 85 Elite Men who started (81 finishers). My time was 40:46.49, just over four minutes slower than the winning time of 36:41.31. My best stage finish was 39th on stage two and my worst was 64th on stage four.
Based on this weekend's race, every minute was worth about 10 spots. So if I want to be in the top three (which I do) I need to get 10% faster. So I'm now working on shaving off one second for every ten seconds of racing. Downhill training, here I come!
Syd deserves a huge thank-you for being support crew this weekend. She did a great job of sending us off on time on each stage, feeding us between stages, shuttling us during practice, taking photos and overall keeping us happy and upbeat. Without her, we would have been much more stressed between stages, not to mention hungrier!
- Macky Franklin
March 06, 2014, 17:40 GMT,
April 09, 2014, 16:43 BST
Riding and racing in New Zealand to kick off 2014
2014 is off to a great start. I'm currently down in New Zealand chasing summer and training for the upcoming race season. I'm excited to be representing Santa Fe Brewing and Pivot Cycles again as well as the majority of my sponsors from last year and can't wait for my first race this weekend.
I made the decision at the end of last year to race only enduros in 2014 instead of splitting my time between enduro and cross country as I did in 2013. It was a hard decision, but it was the right one. I really enjoy the enduro format and always felt that I wasn't taking full advantage of my descending skills when racing cross country. That being said, my descending skills need work and my training recently has been focused on improving them. I'm already noticing a difference in my comfort at speed and in the air with the enduro-specific training.
I'll be racing more internationally this year but will still spend the main part of the race season in North America. After a local race here in Wellington, New Zealand this weekend, I'll be racing four of the seven Enduro World Series races, the Inca Avalanche, the whole Big Mountain Enduro series (including the Crested Butte Ultra), Downieville and the Kamikaze Games.
My time in New Zealand has been spectacular. In late January, Syd and I flew into Auckland and in less than 24 hours had bought a car, got a New Zealand cell phone number and headed south. We spent two weeks exploring the riding on our way to Queenstown then settled in Queenstown for a solid month of training, including multiple days at Skyline Bike Park.
We met up with Bernard Kerr, a fellow Pivot Cycles athlete and World Cup downhiller, and spent some time doing gondola-accessed runs and exploring the trails in the area. If you're ever down there, make sure to check out Rude Rock and the unnamed new trail that drops into Skipper's Canyon. Both are fast and flowy and certainly worth doing.
We're now moving north again, heading towards Rotorua where we'll spent the rest of our time in New Zealand before flying to Santiago, Chile for the first Enduro World Series race. Then we fly to Cusco, Peru for Inca Avalanche before heading back to the States, arriving in early May.
So if you see the Rockmelon (my little orange car) this summer, wave as you go by, or look for me on the trails and we'll do some pedaling!
Visit Macky's website at www.mackyfranklin.com.
- Macky Franklin
Mountain bike racer Macky Franklin hails from Taos, New Mexico but has a difficult time answering the question "Where do you live?" Spending most of his time on the road chasing summer or traveling to race he generally answers "my little orange car".
After holding a cross country pro's license for six years, in 2014, he will be focusing on enduro. Read this blog to follow Franklin throughout the 2014 season as he races four of the seven Enduro World Series races, Inca Avalanche, the whole Big Mountain Enduro series, Downieville and the Kamikaze Games.
When Franklin was 13 and learning to ride clipless pedals, he was given the "Turtle Award" as the rider who spent the most time on his back, still connected to the bike. Fortunately, he has moved past that stage and is now focusing his energies on learning to corner like a downhiller.
Visit his website at www.mackyfranklin.com.