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Hauts-de-Seine: from Gennevilliers to Oslo, the solidarity journey of 18 young people by bike

Departure day for the 2047 km project, which connects Gennevilliers to Oslo by bike. On the left, Djibril, member of the first group which crossed France and Belgium to Amsterdam.(©DR)

On their bikes, two stuffed animals symbolize the presence of Esteban and Ewenn, the handicapped children for whom they ride. Yasmine, Sami, Adam, Djibril and 14 other young people, aged 18 to 25 years oldtook turns from July 2 to August 2, 2022 to achieve their goal: to park their two-wheelers Oslothe capital of Norway, since their MJC of Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine), and raise funds for the association ” Solidarity for Esteban – Hope for Ewenn“, which helps children affected by cerebral palsy and their families.

Three relays between Gennevilliers and Oslo

Braving the wind, the rain, and the heat wave, three groups shared the path to travel through the seven countries on the program: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and finally, the Norwayis around 500km route for each section.

At a rate of 30 to 60 terminals per day, the project, baptized 2047km in memory of the distance traveled during a first edition, gave this year also what to pedal and develop his calves.

Freshly returned from his journey, Samy, 19, and a great cycling enthusiast, still remembers their memorable arrival in Oslo: “It was a great pride to reach the end of this crazy cycling adventure. We were welcomed by a delegation from Gennevilliers, and the mayor of the city received us. Among the troops, Yasmine, 19, who traveled the Amsterdam – Copenhagen sectioncame back boosted by this wonderful experience.

“I’m not very athletic, and the first day I wondered if I was going to be able to go all the way. In fact, I’m very proud to have pushed my limits, to see everything that I “We gave collectively for this project. I think everyone is capable of it, we were very well supported.”

YasmineCyclist on the section Amsterdam – Copenhagen
Samy, 19, Gennevillois on the road to Oslo in July 2022.
Samy, 19, Gennevillois on the road to Oslo in July 2022. (©DR)

A well-prepared road trip

Before their departure, the young people followed a physical and technical preparation : four bike outings organized in the Paris region, accompanied by training on bicycle repair, road safety, stretching and massage techniques to avoid injury.

During the trip, the days followed one another at a steady pace: waking up at 7 a.m., leaving by bike at 8:30 a.m., arriving at the day’s stopover point, visits, setting up camp, or overnight at the hotel. On each trip, the young people were supervised by four facilitators, two of whom piloted the mini-bus which accompanied them everywhere.

The young people benefited from a sports preparation before their departure.
The young people benefited from a sports preparation before their departure. (©DR)

For many, the traveling trip was a discovery. “I had never been camping, and I absolutely loved it! We were in super beautiful places, it was a treat, ”describes Yasmine. “This trip made me want to go backpacking, to visit lots of places. »

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Self-transcendence and independence

Adam, 19, shares the same opinion as his fellow biker. He even experienced, on his return to France, an unusual realization: “Since I got back, I haven’t stopped cleaning. I do it by instinct. It is no longer a chore at all. During the trip, we all had a missionthe dishes, the meal to prepare, the assembly of the tent, the cleaning of the camp… There was not a moment when we did nothing”.

Yasmine, Adam and their comrades preparing a meal at a campsite in Germany.
Yasmine, Adam (left) and their friends preparing a meal at a campsite in Germany. (©DR)

“The goal of this trip was also to empower them, to help them gain autonomy,” explains Manola Bouley, in charge of the project at the city’s youth service, aui observes with pleasure the evolution of each one. “Some come back wanting to pass the BAFA, others embark on associative projects…”

For Djibril, who left in the first group from Gennevilliers, the start was a bit laborious: “The first day, we drove almost all the time on a straight main road, with cars traveling at 80 km/hour. I wondered a bit what I had gotten myself into, ”recalls the 16-year-old high school student with humor.

Helmets mandatory for cyclists.
Helmets mandatory for cyclists. (©DR)

Despite the small galleys and the big frights (one of the young girls broke her malleolus, and had to finish the adventure in the mini-bus), the beauty of the road and the bonds of friendship bring intense emotions to these teenagers and young adults. ” There were moments of euphoria to be all welded, to pedal in music on the roads, to live this adventure together”, says Yasmine.

“There was a real synergy between us”, recalls Samy, nostalgic for these moments of wide open spaces and freedom. “Once, we passed near a lake, and we went swimming, by the feeling, these were incredible moments”.

Discovery of Europe and new cultures

At each stage, the cultural visits make you become more aware of the path traveled, far from familiar landmarks. Adam was dumbfounded by the sailboats worthy of pirate movies and the huge freighters in the port of Hamburg: “I had never come so close to such a monstrous ship”, he recalls. Djibril remembered the night spent on a 1950s cruise ship in Rotterdam.

For Samy, the change of scenery was total in the colorful and quiet streets of Copenhagen, “a capital but with very few people”. As for Yasmine, she observed with interest the infrastructures of these cities where the bicycle is king: “Over there, there are roundabouts and tunnels especially for bicycles! »

Relay passage between groups two and three in Copenhagen.
Relay passage between groups two and three in Copenhagen. (©DR)

Cities where cycling is king

The ecological dimension of the project, which aimed to raise awareness of soft mobility, was fully experienced by the group. “In the places we crossed, there were often more bicycles than cars. The cycle paths are real roads, with lights reserved for cyclists”, describes Adam, impressed. In addition to its ecological aspect, the bicycle would have another virtue, according to Samy.

“It opened up another dimension to us: on a bike, we are much closer to the people than when we travel by car. When they saw us arriving, people turned around, asked us questions about our project…”

SamiCyclist on the Copenhagen – Oslo section

“The bike forced me to go towards people”, abounds Djibril, who describes himself as a boy of a rather discreet nature. “I found myself having conversations with strangers for an hour, I didn’t think I was capable of it. Communicating in “cowboy language”, as Yasmine says, half-English, half-gesture, the young people have “extraordinary encounters”.

A charitable dimension

This discovery marathon, sponsored by brands in the city, will raise funds for the association “Solidarité pour Estaban – Un espoir pour Ewenn”. “Each sponsor company will pay 1 euro per kilometer traveled”, explains Manola Bouley.

Esteban and Ewenn's stuffed animals arrived safely in Oslo, after a month of travels throughout Europe on August 1, 2022.
Esteban and Ewenn’s stuffed animals arrived safely in Oslo, after a month of travels throughout Europe on August 1, 2022. (©DR)

The amount of the kitty will only be revealed during the closing evening of the project which will be held on September 23 and will be the occasion for a great reunion for the three groups. Many of them plan to hit the road again for the third edition of the project. 2047km. Djibril already knows that he will, “but not in the first group”, he specifies, foreseeing: next year, he will have to pass the French baccalaureate.

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