RYAN BOWMAN, MyToba.ca
Photos by EMAN AGPALZA, Team MTS

In an effort to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis, six-time Olympic medallist Cindy Klassen will be cycling from Stonewall to Gimli this weekend. And she won’t be alone.

A total of 67 teams and 618 cyclists will participate in Manitoba’s biggest MS bike tour – more affectionately known as Biking to the Viking.

On Day 1 of the two-day event, riders will meet at Stonewall Veterans Memorial Sports Complex and ride 80 km to Gimli. Once there, they’ll be able to pitch a tent, enjoy a hearty meal and socialize with other riders. On Sunday, they make the return journey, pedalling another 80 km in the name of raising money and awareness for MS, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.

One of the teams cycling for the cause will be Team MTS, aka The Biking Bison. While MTS has been supporting the ride since its inception, 2014 is the second year they will be riding. As a testament to the company’s growing dedication, the number of team members have grown from 35 last year to 48 this year; one of those members just happens to be MTS spokeswoman and Winnipeg’s Golden Girl, Cindy Klassen.

Mark Essenburg, captain of The Biking Bison, says the team raised about $27,000 in 2013 and has already exceeded that amount this year. With donations still coming in, the total raised won’t be known for a couple of weeks.

Essenburg says it’s important for him to get behind a cause like Biking to the Viking because he has seen firsthand the “destructive powers” of MS.

“Personally, I have friends and colleagues who are afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis,” Essenburg says. “I believe that just being able to do something to ease the suffering of others makes it my social responsibility to do so.

“Because of the Future First Program, I am bringing my daughter this year and mentoring her on the value of social responsibility and helping her to understand the needs of the community we live in.”

It is a sentiment held by MTS as a whole.

“MTS gives back to the community already, but it is important to be seen giving,” Essenburg says. “We must show Manitobans that our people care and that we are actively giving of our time and our resources, both personally and corporately.

“It’s important to show the community that MTS is willing to enable the employees to give from our hearts to the causes that we care about. Also, the value of networking individuals from different areas of the business who would not normally interact is very powerful.”

As selfless as the ride is, Essenberg says it’s far from a chore. In addition to cycling at their own pace, riders get to spend the weekend with friends and family on the open prairies in August.

“It’s not a race,” Essenburg says. “It’s really more of a social event.  A chance to enjoy a day of riding with our friends, family and colleagues.

“The overall goal is to do something good and have a lot of fun doing it.”

 Be sure to stay up-to-date on Biking to the Viking by following  on Twitter