I started this blog today to keep all memories, friends and pictures -in one place. My first serous cycling year was back in 1999. Born in Bulgaria, in the small town of Popovo (population 20K) .
At that time it was very hard to get your parents to buy you a bike. Most people were just trying to make a living in the rough economic reality. It was 9 years after the fall of Communism. My dad is a farmer , so we have lots of land. Majority of my summers except playing ball and cycling , were full of hard work. We would leave early in the morning at sunrise, before it is hot outside, and work all day until dawn. We had all kinds of animals, fishing canal , land full of wheat, corn and sunflower. . .
In the year of 1998 my dad promised to get a bike for me. All I needed to do is helping that summer with the farm. The work was tough but the reward so awesome. We drove to the Capital of Sofia ( 200 miles away) to get a bicycle. The brand name is Cross, and I remember selecting it over a Bianchi. I understand now ,this was a mistake. The cost for a bicycle was about 300 leva ( $200) – almost two monthly salaries .
I was so excited, and ever since that day my life was cycling . For years I would train soccer and volleyball, but I knew from the first time I was in the seat that this is what I want. I would ride all day.
Eventually I made it on a bicycle to my dads farm , about 3 miles away. Then to my grandma village 10 miles away , next city 20 miles away and back . . . The distances were going up and up. I liked the challenge of testing your body and soul and bike as far as you can.
I then participated in the city cycling competition events consisting of 2 parts – skills challenge and cross country. Many 1st and 2nd places. Eventually I received recognition from the old cycling enthusiasts in the city. They convinced me joining the local tourists club. There was no cycling specific club there, so we were part of the tourist club.
Later on I entered the National amateur cycling events in Vratza 2003. We commuted from Popovo to Lom for the start of the event – a 2 day 200 mile ride with a sleep stop in Pleven. It was rough, but satisfying. Like a dream come true! I also joined many organized 7 day bike rides that were just outstanding, and met so much great people. There is nothing like it!
One of them – “After the steps of Tanjio voivoda “- Bulgarian fighter leading a group of fighters during the April Uprising ( Aprilsko vastanie) , insurrection organised by the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire from April to May 1876, which indirectly resulted in the re-establishment of Bulgaria in 1878. The end of the battles and cycling event would then end in 7 days on a steep hill in a village outside my city.
I am so grateful to meet such a great group of people, full of fun moments and memories never to be forgotten. From Georgi Dimitrov( on my left at the picture) that eventually left to me his Francesco Moser frame . To the one and only Dr. Plamen Bujev ( front right side with the orange bike) – heart of every event. My neighbor Stefan Lashev . Lashev was actually a mechanic and I always loved to go see what he does in his basement, work on bikes, stare at the posters on the walls, admire his bikes. We watch Tour de France in his underground basement/mechanic shop… This was such a great group of people.
Eventually in 1999 the first Bulgarians did Paris – Brest – Paris (1200km) – one of the oldest cycling events. There is new edition every four years since 1891 . Like Olympics for us. Two of the participants started Audax Randonneuring in Bulgaria- Lazard Vladislavov and Dimitar Balanski
From Wikipedia – In 1931 amateur cyclists were separated from professionals. The brevet was for amateurs (also called randonnée), in which cyclists ride individually. The goal is to make it within 90 hours, but with no competition.
I had the chance to meet with Dimitar Balanski on one of the local area rides in the city of Isperih, his hometown. There is no words to explain how much he did for Randonneuring in Bulgaria, and how many kids he involved , trained and shared the love of cycling with. I was then regular at his house with the old cycling dogs, doing ultra distance marathons. He would always turn his house into a sleep stop, welcome everyone full of stories, drinks , food, help with mechanical problems. He even let me borrow one of his road bikes for some of my first brevets . Before that, I was using my Cross mountain bike. I cannot believe I did a 200 on a mountain bike. During those years I completed all distances from the brevet SR series but never did 1200 km. It was and still is just a dream that I plan on accomplishing soon.
Then I graduated school and moved to University in Varna. Cycling was neglected for a bit. I was still commuting maybe 20 to 30 miles a day with a bike to work. It’s a great way to stay in shape, save money and time to train on a busy schedule. In the next post I will continue with my cycling experiences in USA , joining RUSA and DC Randonneurs with stories of the present, and sure of the past in Bulgaria. Thanks for reading. More to come up soon. . .