Penny-Sue Franklin, left, and her sister Louise McGillivray out for a training ride over the Coppermine Saddle. Photo: Chris Franklin.

Racing to a family reunion


After nine years of racing at the business end of the Torpedo7 Spring Challenge, Nelson’s Penny-Sue Franklin is looking forward to another “very recreational” family affair in the 11th edition near Geraldine on Saturday.

Penny-Sue teamed-up with some super-fast friends to win multiple veteran’s titles in the first nine years of the world’s biggest all-women’s adventure race. But last year, she decided to step back and join her sister Louise McGillivray and friend Jenni Payne in the six-hour event.

“I’ve done all 10 races so far and the first nine were very competitive,” Penny-Sue says. “But after Wanaka, I decided my body needed a rest so I entered the six-hour race with my sister and a friend.”

“They’d never done anything like this before so it was such a cool challenge. Jenni didn’t even own a bike so she borrowed my son’s – it was a huge sense of accomplishment.”

And this Saturday, it will be an even bigger family affair on Saturday when she lines up at the start with her daughter Abbey, 20, and Louise in the aptly-named Team Cup of Tea Time. Penny-Sue says she was planning to race with the same team this year, but when Jenni couldn’t make it, they quickly recruited Abbey.

“We will be very recreational but I’m looking forward to it,” Penny-Sue says. “It’s going to be nice having chats to people going up the hill instead of gasping for breath.”

Penny-Sue says their team name was inspired by Louise’s request for a cup of tea in the transition in last year’s event in Golden Bay. It was the first time in nine years that Penny-Sue’s husband and support crew Chris had been asked to make a cup of tea for a team member.

“We’d usually be racing in and out of transition in a real hurry, so he wasn’t used to that,” Penny-Sue says.The six-hour race will be Abbey’s second Spring

The six-hour race will be Abbey’s second Spring Challenge, after she joined her cousins Georgina and Beatrice Fulton to win the school’s section in Queenstown in 2013. Now, after years of watching her mum compete in the race, she will be joining her on the start line on Saturday.

“It’s going to be so much fun racing with Abbey,” Penny-Sue says. “The only drawback is that it’s bumped us out of the veterans and into the open section.”

Race director Nathan Fa’avae says 597 teams of three have entered this year’s race, making it the biggest Spring Challenge, and probably the biggest adventure race, in history. Nathan, who is a five-times world champion adventure racer, says the competitors will enjoy trekking, mountainbiking and rafting around a spectacular course that “showcases the region”.

“It’s based in Geraldine, but you don’t have to go far and you are in the Southern Alps,” Nathan says. “There’s a lot of real wilderness country and the teams will see some really amazing scenery.”

The race will be held in three, six and nine-hour sections, all starting with a 1km run to the 10km rafting stage on the Rangitata River. Teams will then complete a mountainbiking and an orienteering stage with six and nine-hour teams also completing a long trek.

The top nine-hour teams include Nelson athletes Susie Wood, who joins Sophie Hart and Fleur Pawsey in Team Torpedo7, and world champion rogainer Georgia Whitla, who teams with Isla Smith and Anna Barrett in The Sneaky Weasel Gals.