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Turkish Round-the-World Cyclist Visits St. Petersburg

Published: January 30, 2013 (Issue # 1744)



  • Turkish cyclist Gurkan Genc, 34, speaks in St. Petersburg last week. He is nearly 5,000 miles into his round-the-world trip.
    Photo: ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT

Turkish traveler Gürkan Genç, who is currently traveling around the world by bike, arrived in St. Petersburg on Jan. 20, having covered nearly 5,000 kilometers of his epic journey.

Genç embarked on his trip, titled Pedaling for the Future, on Sept. 9, 2012 from Ankara, and plans to complete it in seven years time, after visiting 84 countries and pedaling about 110,000 kilometers, he told a news conference in St. Petersburg organized by Turkeys consulate general on Jan. 23.

Gençs ride will take him through five deserts and five of the planets tallest peaks, covering the longest and most dangerous paths. While these routes have been completed by cyclists before, no one has yet made it through all of them, so Genç hopes that after completing the journey, he will be included in the Guinness Book of World Records, he said.

Traveling on a Turkish-made Kron bicycle, equipped with Shimano parts and Schwalbe tyres, Genç entered St. Petersburg on Jan. 20, shortly after celebrating his 34th birthday in a tent pitched somewhere north of Moscow in temperatures of minus 34 degrees Celsius. The reading of minus 36 degrees registered by his thermometer 220 kilometers south of St. Petersburg was the coldest he has cycled in, beating even the Mongolian steppe, Genç said. Of the major cities visited on this journey, St. Petersburg, which he proceeded to explore by bike, was the most beautiful, he said.

He presents the name of Turkey to the entire world, and does it gracefully, said Can Esenergul, a leasing specialist with Gençs St. Petersburg sponsor Renaissance Development, explaining the companys motivation for supporting the traveler. Turkeys Foreign Ministry arranged for free visas to all 47 countries on Gençs route that require a visa for Turkish nationals.

Genç crossed Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine before arriving in Russia. In the town of Torzhok near Moscow where no one spoke any English, Genç was taken to a local school and shown a PE lesson. The locals understood that he was a tourist, while Genç could understand that he was being offered vodka to drink, which he accepted. We didnt speak, only smiled, he recounted.

Cycling experiences in Russia can, unfortunately, be far less lucky. Japanese traveler Haruhisa Watanabe, who was on the final leg of an eight-month cycle ride from China, was killed in a traffic accident on Dec. 26, 2012 while cycling on a motorway near the Ruchi-Karelskiye railway station, some 220 kilometers south of his destination, Murmansk, where he wanted to see the Northern lights. The early-morning accident is thought to have been caused by poor visibility, Flashnord.com website reported. In 2004, when he was 22, Watanabe became the youngest Japanese climber to scale the tallest peaks on seven continents, The Japan Times reported on its website.

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