MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 6, 2017
Words / Lake Kilpatrick
Max Markolf’s 2016 racing season came to an abrupt and gruesome ending as he was practicing down at Club MX in preparation for the Monster Energy Cup. The freshly turned eighteen year old ended up getting squirrely in a rhythm section in a crash that separated him from his bike over a massive quad. The incident put him in the hospital for almost two weeks with a myriad of injuries, but he toughed it out by displaying the heart of a champion. In his typical jovial and relentlessly positive attitude, he’s taking everything on the chin and looking forward to the exciting partnership that he has just cemented with the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM team for the next couple of years. Max went into detail about what he referred to as ‘the worst two weeks of his life’, his relationship with the Club MX training facility, and what lies ahead in his blossoming racing career.
Reflecting on the 2016 season, you’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Starting with one of the positives, you won your first ever AMA National Championship at the Daytona RCSX, what was it like to finally get that monkey off your back?
Yeah, it’s awesome, man! I would say I haven’t really been comin’ into my own ‘till here in the past year or so since I got on big bikes. I mean, being on 85s and superminis and stuff like that, I was an okay guy, I guess. But, KTM saw something in me and I’m stoked that they gave me the opportunity, because now I feel like I’m just getting better and better as the months and the years go by so quick. I feel good about it, man...to be at Daytona, I kinda like the indoor style supercross stuff. Where everyone feels uncomfortable, I kinda feel comfortable. I dunno, it just kinda clicked; I swept all my heat races like the day before and then went into the day and I was just like “Let’s do it, dude.” I didn’t go into any different than I would anything else and I think that’s the major thing. It’s weird, because everyone tells me I need to be more serious when I’m at the races, but that’s how I deal with racing. I wanna have fun naturally, y’know, so when I’m riding good then I’m having fun. So, I always try to keep it light-hearted and stuff, everyone sees me goofin’ on the line, or messin’ with somebody here, or shootin’ the bull with someone on the line there. Everyone thinks “Awwhh, this kid doesn’t take it serious.” But realistically, that’s how I deal with racing. I go to the line, pick my gate, pack it, and then you just kinda turn your mind off because it’s all reactionary. You don’t have to think about anything when you train as much as you do, so that’s kinda just the way I go about it. I’m a serious thinker, so if I sit and think too long, you can just overthink things. I think if I kinda keep it light-hearted then I race good, and that’s pretty much all I did that day. I just had fun racing my dirtbike, man. That’s pretty much it, it all kinda clicked. I remember that I didn’t think anything about it until I crossed the finish and I was like “Dude, no way! That’s sick!” I was stoked, everyone with me was stoked, so it was a real special moment. And then to do it again at Mammoth was another cool spot to do it, so I definitely look forward to gettin’ more of those moments here in 2017 in the A class.
So, it’s been a couple of months now…but you had a pretty gnarly crash training supercross down at Club MX. Could you talk a little about the extent of your injuries and what you had to go through to get healed up?
Unfortunately, like the last week of September I was supposed to leave to come out here to California and it was actually my mechanic’s first day on the job...we were all riding supercross and there was a pretty hairy section where you went supercross triple out of a corner, then it went step on-step off-quad, and then another triple into the corner. I pretty much - from what I was told, because I don’t recollect too much of it - I made a mistake and it was all me, nothing happened, it was just a rider error. I stepped on wrong and then I stepped off wrong, too, and I pretty much went over the quad with like no bike. So, I backsided this pretty big quad with my body and then I very briefly got knocked out, so that obviously stunted that. But, then I rolled out of it and came to, and when I did I just told them that I broke my collarbone and I wasn’t feeling good or any of that. A minute goes by and I tell them I can’t breathe, and then I start coughing up blood. Then they’re like “Yeah, we gotta get him to the hospital.” So, got me in the car, because they knew I didn’t have a back or a neck issue ‘cause I tried to get up on my own, I guess. Yeah, so they got me in the car and took me to the hospital...dude, that journey was pretty gnarly, man; I’m not gonna lie. From the time I got in the hospital, it was pretty rough. I had to get transported to the better hospital in Charlotte and they stuck a chest tube in me, ‘cause I collapsed my lung. I lacerated my spleen, broke my collarbone pretty good, and then bruised my kidneys, and a couple other things, so being in the hospital for twelve days wasn’t fun. I definitely had some complications which kept me in there a little longer than what we wanted. My lung collapsed on me a couple more times while I was in the hospital through different chest tubes, they had to change the chest tubes at different times which that didn’t feel good. They kept my collarbone broke for ten days, because they weren’t worried about it at all; they were worried about my spleen which was bleeding and they were worried about my lung which wasn’t staying inflated. So, that’s kinda how that went and then once the bleeding stopped in my spleen a couple days in, they were good on that, didn’t have to mess with it or do surgery. Then once they finally got my lung figured out, they were able to do surgery on my collarbone and then I was in there for like another two days. I mean, dude, there’s like some gnarly, hairy stories that went on in that hospital...I was touched, tickled, wiggled, and fondled in every possible way you could imagine. Haha, it was the longest two weeks of my life so far, for sure.
Yeah, that sounds rough, man. But, you’re keeping a positive attitude as always and it seems like you healed up pretty good.
Yeah, just to put this into perspective, I got asked twice - at the first hospital I went to and then when I got transported I got asked again like while they were stripping me down and stuff and I’m seriously concussed - I remember the nurse asking me “You had enough?” and I’m like “What do you mean?” and she says “Of this dirt bike nonsense.” This happened twice, dude! I said something like “Are you kiddin’ me?” and she goes “No, I’m serious. Are you done?” and I’m like “Never.” Y’know, as I’m sitting there like almost dying, I’m thinkin’ “Nah, I’m good. Let’s fill ‘er up again.” Hahaha!
Haha! The doctors mentioned that if it weren’t for the quick reactions of everyone down at Club MX, you could’ve been a lot worse off. Could you talk a little bit about the facility down there?
If it wasn’t for them making the decision, because I was obviously pretty concussed. I guess that they told me “Max, you’re eighteen. You need to make the decision on where you wanna go.” and I was like “No, I’m seventeen, I’m seventeen.” So, I guess I had totally forgot that I turned eighteen. Like I said, it was pretty much in their hands and if they hadn’t got me to the closest hospital as quick as they did...because I think the discussion was to go to the better hospital farther away...when I got transported to Charlotte and I had been in the hospital for almost a week or something, the doctors brought in the scans and everything and kind of wanted to tell us how bad it would have been if I hadn’t got to the hospital that I did when I did. They said that there was so much pressure in my chest cavity from my collapsed lung that it was so bad that the pressure was pushing my heart into the right side of my chest cavity. People go into cardiac arrest and die from that stuff like pretty quick. So, if it wasn’t for them, and then the people at the hospital that were as quick as they were to get me in on a full body scan and get that chest tube in me...it could have been way worse. I’ve been a member of Club MX for goin’ on like six years now. I mean, they’re like family, man - all the people there. I started there in 2012 on 85s, so a lot of that thanks goes to them. I wouldn’t say I grew up there, but you know what I’m saying, it’s home. That will always be home no matter where I go. No matter if I’m in California or wherever it is across the U.S. or world, that’ll kind of be home. It’s an hour from my house, it’s right there in Charlotte, it’s where I grew up. It’s where I first started training and stuff, so it’ll always be kind of dear to my heart no matter where I bounce around and train. So, I’ll always try to get back there as much as I can. Like I said, they’re like family there.
So, you’re obviously back on a bike since you’re doing the KTM ride day, have you been back on a dirt bike yet and how’s that been?
Yeah, it’s been about two and a half months, I think it is ...and I just got started back riding, I got cleared on my spleen, my lung, my collarbone. And I started back riding...uhhh, Saturday (Dec 10th.) So, Saturday was my first day back and we’ve kinda just been taking it slow. Y’know, after a couple months off the bike, you kinda just gotta feel things out, take it slow. We don’t start racing ‘till February, so we got some time to get back. That’s kinda what I’ve been doing, just taking it easy.
Yeah, you had a pretty gnarly, long season...even though you were hurt, it’s probably good to get some recovery time in still.
Yeah, but I mean…I’ll tell you what: all the pain you go through in the hospital and stuff, you forget about it pretty quick. Everyone thinks you don’t forget about it, but you kinda do. As soon as you’re healed, you’re just like “Let’s get back to it.” It was a long season, but as an amateur your season never ends, that’s the thing. You’re racing all year ‘round; through the winter, through the summer, through the spring. I think the biggest break you get in between major races is like a couple weeks, so it’s kind of like a never ending thing as an amateur. But, it just makes you stronger, tougher, and all that good stuff.
So, the first national that everyone can expect to see you back at is the Daytona RCSX?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the plan right now is we’re gonna train out here in California for a couple of months, do a couple of arenacross races and I’ll get my road to supercross points, and we will go straight to Daytona, Freestone, Cal Classic - those spring nationals. And then we’ll go through Loretta’s in A class and right now the plan is Unadilla, so that’ll be my pro debut if all goes according to plan.
Being from SC, it’s probably pretty awesome to see the MXGP come to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Depending on how 2017 goes, would you consider continuing to race after the AMA nationals and line up there?
Let’s just say this...if I didn’t, I would be severely disappointed. I would be severely disappointed if I weren’t able to race the MXGP in my hometown. I mean, you obviously saw Cooper Webb, he’s not too far from Charlotte, only a couple hours. So, call that a hometown race for him, I mean I was there and I saw it. It was so cool, man. I’ve never seen an event like that in Charlotte, North Carolina before. It was really, really cool to see the MXGP series come to the Queen City of Charlotte and do all that. It was so cool, because I know so many people that haven’t seen motocross that know I’ve raced through the years, so it was awesome to have a bunch of friends of mine all gang up and go there. I remember...I think I did a little piece in the tower announcing and they asked me if I was going to race it next year and I was like “Ehhh, we’ll see.” But, now to see a plan come together with the last three outdoors, and then that obviously the weekend after the last outdoor, I’m sitting here thinking that would be sweet. So, I definitely wanna hit that up and make my hometown proud.
Thanks for your time, man. Any sponsors you’d like to shout out?
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC - KTM - WPS, KTM Orange Brigade, Fly Racing, Scott, Alpinestars, WP Suspension, FMF, Acerbis, Dunlop, Nihilo, Ethika, Skullcandy, ProTaper, DT1 Air Filters, Hinson, Ogio, Dubya , Motorex, Matrix concepts, Motion pro, Pivot Works, Cometic , Full Spectrum Batteries, Millennium Technologies , TM Designworks, Vertex