Op­er­a­tion Ride reaches North Is­land

Bay News - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Mauger news@baynews.co.nz

Dave Ben­fell un­in­ten­tion­ally added three me­tres to his epic 2500km south-to-north bike ride at the start line.

The chain on his pur­pose built re­cum­bent tan­dem cy­cle was wound in­cor­rectly so he and his rear rider could not go for­ward, only back­yards. Which they did for three me­tres be­fore top­pling over.

“It was ter­ri­ble but it was so funny,” he says. “We had been train­ing for months and there was a real buzz in the air, I thought ‘how on earth did end I up three­me­tres be­hind the start­ing line and on my side’?”

The ex-sol­dier from Brook­field is rid­ing with a team from Bluff to Cape Reinga to raise money for in­jured soldiers’ causes. Op­er­a­tion Ride 2018 is the first of its kind and or­gan­ised by the Pil­grim Ban­dits (United King­dom) in­volv­ing teams of in­jured soldiers and sup­port team from New Zealand, Canada and the United King­dom.

The bike ride kicked off on Oc­to­ber 28 in Bluff and the riders have just landed in the North Is­land this week.

The trip has not been with­out prob­lems, Dave says. There’s been break­downs and prob­lems with bikes, bad weather and many stops. The West Coast of the South Is­land was tough, Dave says, but the lo­cals were very sup­port­ive— bring­ing them food and of­fer­ing dis­counted ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The riders made up for any time lost on good days.

“The guys are amaz­ing, the teams are in­spi­ra­tional. Some of these are re­ally in­jured guys— how can you give up and have a bad day— when you see the in­juries these guys are over­com­ing, it’s in­cred­i­ble.”

The group is on their way up the North Is­land which has more traf­fic. Dave says to driv­ers to be aware and to be pa­tient if they see them.

“If you are stuck be­hind us we will pull over whenwe can. We want peo­ple to be aware that we are not su­per fast and please be pa­tient.”

They are on sched­ule to reach Auck­land to take part in Ar­mistice Day cel­e­bra­tions and Cape Reinga on their ex­pected date of Novem­ber 16.

The Kiwi team is fourstrong. Each cy­cle has an adapted hand ele­ment at the front for am­putees and an able-bod­ied per­son ped­als at the back. In New Zealand, the char­ity rais­ing money for is Soldiers, Sailors, Air­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand (SSAANZ) which Dave es­tab­lished this year.

Dave doesn’t want soldiers to be for­got­ten.

“There more con­tem­po­rary vet­er­ans than there has ever been. And we are for­got­ten. That’s why I started this char­ity, I want them to know that we ap­pre­ci­ate their ser­vice. It’s kind of a thank you to them.”

Dave was in the first bat­tal­ion Royal New Zealand In­fantry Reg­i­ment from 1996-2001. He joined the United King­dom army and be­came part of the Para­chute Reg­i­ment, serv­ing nine years. Dave was in­jured in 2009 af­ter join­ing the Red Devils freefall team while part of the para­chute reg­i­ment.

He broke his back and was paral­ysed from the waist down for two months and lay in hos­pi­tal for five months.

Dave says war memo­rial days are im­por­tant, but he also wants peo­ple to be aware of con­tem­po­rary soldiers who have risked their lives, and how in­spi­ra­tional these se­verely in­jured soldiers are.

Op­er­a­tion Ride is also a fundraiser, check out https:/ /givealit­tle.co.nz/cause/ op­er­a­tion-ride-2018

A United King­dom team mem­ber car­ries rider Tyler Christo­pher to the look­out at Mount Vic­to­ria.

PHO­TOS/Sup­plied

Op­er­a­tion Ride riders have just landed in the North Is­land for the sec­ond half of their cy­cle trip. Pic­tured, two sup­port riders from Wales help Kiwi team­mates Amy Baynes Rolle­ston from Christchurch and Bill Blakie from Welling­ton up a big hill.

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