I lost my mum to cancer in 2000, but the idea of cycling4cancer first came about in 2013 when a friend of mine – TV sports journalist Morten Ankerdal – approached me about a fundraiser when his dad had cancer. I was an indoor cycling instructor then, but Morten thought he could beat me on the bike. We organised a three-hour indoor cycling event and I beat him big time!
As the loser, his challenge was to raise lots of money for cancer research, which he did along with his co-hosts of Knæk Cancer – a massive televised event in Denmark which raises money for cancer research every year, and which translates as ‘Crack Cancer’.
It gave me the idea for a much bigger 24-hour indoor cycling event, which would be part of Knæk Cancer each year. The first cycling4cancer event took place in 2014 and we’ve continued every year since then.
“The event is an overwhelmingly upbeat one, filled with positive vibes and happy memories of those we may have lost”
What’s the concept?
Cycling4cancer is a 24-hour indoor cycling event that finishes at 6.00pm on the Saturday of Knæk Cancer, while the TV coverage is ongoing. For 2022, that meant starting at 6.00pm on Friday 28 October and finishing at 6.00pm on 29 October.
It’s the ultimate corporate teamworking and networking event, with businesses paying for a bike – a minimum donation of DKK10,000 (around €1,350) that goes directly to Knæk Cancer – and asking their employees to ride it.
There are 24 sessions of 45–50 minutes each, with a short break in between while we change the instructor and DJ, and every bike must be ridden for the full 24 hours.
We’ve set DKK10,000 as the minimum donation because at this level, your company’s name comes up in the Knæk Cancer TV coverage. Some organisations donate more, though: in 2022 we had a bank pay DKK50,000 for one bike, while a plumbing firm took two bikes at DKK25,000 each. Other companies pay DKK10,000 but also donate DKK5–10 per kilometre cycled by their employees.
We do also have individuals who fund a bike themselves and put a team together to ride, often because they have a relative who’s sick or who they want to remember. These stories are very moving; I admit I find myself crying quite a lot throughout the 24 hours. However, the event is an overwhelmingly upbeat one, filled with positive vibes and happy memories of those we may have lost.
Finally, I have a couple of bikes where – if you really want to take part but can’t organise a team or afford a whole bike – you can ride for an hour for DKK500.
“Exercise and positivity keeps cancer at bay. I will do this again and again and again to keep raising money for cancer research”
Tell us about the 2022 event
It nearly didn’t happen, because my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer in April and died in August. I honestly wasn’t sure I had the energy to do it. I also started to question the purpose of doing all this every year when my loved ones were still dying.
But then I reminded myself of my personal motto – that exercise and positivity keeps cancer at bay – and I decided this was no time for quitting. Cancer never sleeps, and I will do this again and again and again to keep raising money for cancer research.
And it was an incredible event, with 118 BODY BIKES provided by our sponsor Fitness Engros in action for the 24 hours. That’s 30 more than last year and there was a lot of love, happiness and sweat in the room!
People also brought family and friends to support them and enjoy the event: we had over 4,000 people in attendance.
We are hugely grateful to our 24 incredible instructors and our best-in-Denmark DJs who gave their time for free, and our sponsors who provided the bikes, the venue, the refreshments, the lighting and everything else we needed to put the event on. As always, the whole thing was done for free: not one bit of money passes through my hands.
What’s your role on the day?
I used to be one of the instructors, but I now host and push to get fundraising as high as possible. Between each session, I get up on stage and ask everyone in the saddle to post on their social media and LinkedIn accounts asking for sponsorship before they start, and to post again afterwards to say how far they cycled.
I then kick every session off – calling out “Knæk!” from the stage, to which all the participants shout back “Cancer!” – before leaving it to the instructor and DJ to crank it up.
All sponsorship goes direct to Knæk Cancer using a dedicated MobilePay code, so funds are allocated to our event and we know how much we’ve raised.
And how much did you raise?
I had hoped to raise DKK3m in 2022 (a little over €400,000), but with the economic crisis hitting hard, we didn’t quite reach that target: the figure we announced on the day was DKK2.1m.
Money is still coming in, though; we’ve already passed DKK2.4m and, once the final bits of sponsorship are counted, I expect to hit DKK2.5m. I’m pleased with that. Knæk Cancer lowered its overall 2022 forecasts by 30 per cent and ended up bringing in DKK117m on the day, down from DKK150m in 2021. Meanwhile, cycling4cancer will have raised DKK2.5m compared to DKK2.6m in 2021. In spite of all the pressures in the world at the moment, our event continues to have great momentum.
Once we’ve added 2022’s fundraising to the DKK8.3m we raised between 2014 and 2021, our running total will hit DKK10.8m.
What comes next for you?
We’ll keep raising the bar with cycling4cancer and we’ll keep fighting.
At the moment, I organise just one event each year, although we do sell ‘f*ck cancer’ merchandise throughout the year. I do this alongside a full-time job and it’s all-consuming: finishing at 6.00pm on the Saturday, by the Sunday morning I was already thinking about next year’s event!
However, I would like to grow to at least two events a year – one in the spring and one in October – as well as potentially organising some pop-up events too. I want to keep driving awareness of my motto and belief that exercise and positivity can keep cancer at bay.
I’d also love to make this a global event, finding local organisers who can partner with me to host simultaneous events around the world, with all funds going to cancer research in those countries. I’d love us all to stick up our middle fingers and say together: ‘F*ck cancer’.