A friend of mine and me, we got off on the Vyborg Station. About 240 km lied ahead of us. Four days of hard cycling and unpredictable weather. At that moment I realized that I challenged myself again. ‘I’m just an amateur. Why do I do it again?’ I thought. However, I knew that I could do it. A year ago I did it and reached Stockholm. So why should it be impossible this time?
These fears and questions were on my mind on the first day of the Freedom Bike Ride to Helsinki. The situation was even more worrying as the day before there were several online publications about “gays attacking Vyborg”. Senseless ballyhoo! Nevertheless I’m noting after myself: I took a look around if it was safe when we left the Railway Station building. ‘None!’ In fact, nobody could define a friend of mine and me being gay. There was no sign. Besides that, many cyclists arrived from St-Petersburg with the same train. So I drive away the last shadow of the fears and start my way.
The route was familiar to me. A friend of mine was very helpful and actually better prepared than me. We had many talks. We remembered our common friends who did the ride with us a year ago. The only trouble I had was the back wheel of my bike. In accordance with the sod’s law, I got a puncture on our way to Porvoo. It was raining cats and dogs all the day. The longest distance on the road full of ups and downs. My sneakers were full of water just like a sponge and mosquitoes were biting the forehead and hands – the only parts of my body that were uncovered with the raincoat. We spent about an hour to find the hole and to seal it with a plaster. By late evening we arrived to a hospitable Finnish family, warmed up and watched England-Iceland match at Euro-2016. Next day we arrived to Helsinki for the EuroGames 2016.
When I ask myself what gave me energy to move forward, I don’t have one answer. But I know for sure that a great support of EGLSF and particularly of John Ryan made the ride possible. I gave them my word and simply had no right to let them down. As well as I felt my own duty in front of the friends who couldn’t take part in the Freedom Bike Ride this time but did it last year and, hopefully, will do it next time.
There was, of course, another and main reason to cover these 240 km – the EuroGames in Helsinki. To me it was a great opportunity to meet so many friends of mine from all around Europe and to experience again those feelings of joy, freedom and friendship. I can hardly describe how it was amazing to see all of them and what I felt when the hosts were making an announcement about the Freedom Bike Ride cyclists when the Russian sport delegation was stepping on to the stage at the opening ceremony. I will never forget that feeling!
Words:- Alex Agapov
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