How it was: 737 km MS Bike Challenge
The story of the Miles For Smiles team
In April we announced the release of the limited edition of Miles For Smiles jersey to support Eva and Benjamin in raising funds for Danish Sclerosis Foundation. The race is over and the guys have shared with us their experience.
Eva: When Benjamin asked me to join Miles for Smiles team on a 737km adventure in 30 hours through the spectacular Danish countryside my thoughts were - sure! I would do it on my routine. But it turned out to be much harder than I expected.
MS Bike Challenge is a charity race organized by The Sclerosis Foundation of Denmark. The aim was to raise funds and spread awareness of Sclerosis. We had 30 hours to complete the race which left us minimal time for breaks and sleep.
Miles for Smiles is a team of 5 members. Two riders, Benjamin and Eva, and three crew members: Simon the director of Spotif, Jakob our physiotherapist, and William driving the three-door Volkswagen Golf.
Your first question would probably be - why did we do this?
It's easy to answer: to seek and push boundaries, to stimulate professional growth and to get memories that would last a lifetime.
Benjamin: On Saturday morning we didn’t just set off on a race. For us, the MS Bike Challenge was a journey of the mind. I just haven't realized it until now. I’ve never been a born racer but I've always been ambitious and competitive. So the 737km MS Bike Challenge appealed to me as the right aim to fulfill my own potential, not to win the race.
Eva: I decided to set out with the goal to ride as far as I could. My winter training had been limited due to the shoulder injury. The start was perfect! No rain, no wind, a big group and good legs. At the time when we got on the ferry (around 200km and 6 hours), I could already feel my stamina failing. At that point I knew, it would be a tough race. I usually say that the first 8-10 hours shows how fit you are and the rest is how mentally strong you are, and I was only fit for 6 hours and my mental strength had to take over.
Benjamin: When riding or racing a long distance it is essential to set smaller goals. From the beginning, I was looking forward to seeing my family, my girlfriend and my son who were cheering me at the dinner time station on Fyn after approximately 250 km.
Somehow emptying yourself as much as it takes to do a race like this always leaves some inner space dedicated to emotions. And great experiences are the best when shared with people you love. Even though I only saw them for 5 minutes, I had a slight feeling that we shared that moment. So it was a very emotional thing to see my 4,5-year-old son with his homemade “Go Go, daddy!"
Eva: At 300 km I had my first real crisis - everything was hurting: legs, knees, back, arms, brain. I felt tired and the sun was only setting. My crisis disappeared with the sun and we started riding into the night, under the wide open starry sky in the Jutland plantations, in a very good mood. At that point, I realized that the pain and the mental battle I had in the evening was a crisis and that I have forgotten the feeling of riding for 24 hours.
Eva: This was when the real adventure started. When I got tired - not the “long day at work” tired - but when I've ridden for 400km and almost being awake for 20 hours.
At this point, the world changed in the most amazing way. Everything got more beautiful, somehow more real and detailed. It was like I have been wearing a filter and I suddenly saw the world as it really was. It’s difficult to explain, you have to experience it yourself if you want to understand what I mean. It was true meditation! I remember two things very clearly: a very old forest where the car light hit the crooked branches, and my shadow in the morning mist looking like an angel with a rainbow halo around the head (no, I wasn’t hallucinating, Benjamin saw it too).
Benjamin: It's true, unexpected frost and overwhelming mist formed enormous spectral glories around our giant shadows from the car lights, while we rode through the heavy carpets of fog. This was truly one of the few out of the body experiences I've had in my life.
This is the End
Eva: In the morning just after breakfast I had my second serious crisis. I wasn’t mentally strong enough to protect my shoulder and to cope with the pain I was feeling again. I wouldn’t risk getting a new injury. I told Benjamin that I couldn’t keep going and he instantly understood that there was no way that I could keep riding.
The journey had been enough for me, I had pushed myself further than I thought I could and I was very satisfied with my performance. I rode in total 530 km in 24 hours, which is far from my best performance but it sure was one of the toughest rides I have ever done.
It was a little bit strange feeling sitting in the car watching Benjamin fight. One part of me wanted to go out there and keep fighting with him but the other knew that ending the race prematurely was the right thing.
Benjamin continued for another 80 km, he rode in total 610 km in 27 hours.
Benjamin: I rode to fulfill my own potential. And that was exactly how it all ended.
The finish line is somehow still ahead even though the race is over and it is now up to me to compile all the thoughts, the roads ridden, the doors entered, the flashes seen, the ifs, hows, and whys and make that a clear picture. I am not sure if I will succeed but the fragments have all become a part of me, and that’s why cycling is such an ominous experience.
A tribute to the crew
Long distance races show how physically and mentally strong a person is, but they also show the high level of teamwork. We had three guys in a small three-door Volkswagen Golf. These three guys had met each other only once before MS Bike Challenge. They managed to work as a team so well that Benjamin and I only had to focus on pedaling and not think of anything else – it was incredible and I am grateful to those guys. They did all of that, and it’s not easy, with a maximum of one hour of sleep! They are the reason we got further than the ferry.
Photography: Simon Hedman
Even though the race is over, you can still support the charity movement by getting one Miles For Smiles jersey. The net profit from every sold MFS jersey will go to the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.