YEREVAN, Armenia—From May 24-30, cyclists in the Bike for Hope for Armenia group rode in a bike-a-thon called the “Spectacular Armenia Ride” to support scientists at the Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) of the Yerevan Physics Institute (YerPhI).
Riders from the United States included Jamie Kolar, a Los Angeles firefighter medic and Birthright participant who founded Aid to Armenia and spent a year on sabbatical teaching the latest first aid techniques to medics, schools, and village residents in Armenia; Roffi Petrossian from Seattle, also on a year of discovery in Armenia volunteering on environmental projects that included planting trees for Armenia Tree Project (ATP), video graphing for Civilinet, and applying to the American University of Armenia (AUA) program on Armenia’s Birds of Prey; and Anahid Yeremian, a particle accelerator physicist at Stanford and co-founder of the Support Committee for Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division. The riders from the U.S. were joined by Rafael Paremuzyan, a physicist at YerPhI, and by the junior riders from the Armenian cycling team, including the two-time world junior silver medalist Mher Mkrtchyan. Coordinating the more than 15 riders and 4 support personnel was the ride leader, world-renowned master cycling trainer Albert Soloyan.
For seven days, the riders braved rain, wind, and the hills of the majestic Armenian landscape from Yerevan to Aparan to Ijevan, Dilijan, and Sevan. Camping by rivers and groves of trees, each morning checking for water in the tents, making soup on camp stoves, singing by the bonfire, and dancing shourchbar whenever possible was all part of the activities that bonded the group together.
The Armenian Roadway Police skillfully escorted the riders through the congested streets of Yerevan on the first day and back to Republic Square on the last day, delivering the tired riders safely to the finish line. Among those welcoming the cyclists back were the scientists, staff, and head of the CRD and director of the Yerevan Physics Institute, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian, together with friends and reporters from the local news media.
At the conclusion of the Spectacular Armenia Ride, the cyclists joined the CRD staff and supporters at CRD’s Nor Amberd Research Station on Mt. Aragats for a celebration dinner and a tour of the facility. Young students in the cycling team said they were inspired to do well in science and maybe one day become scientists themselves. The scientists, in turn, said they were inspired to exercise more and possibly join the ride next year. Chilingarian said that he has added bicycle parking stalls at the Yerevan Physics Institute to encourage scientists and staff to come to work on their bicycles.
The celebration dinner included a recognition of decades of service by two of Armenia’s talented and inspiring leaders: Albert Soloyan, who has trained many cycling world champions in Armenia and abroad and who breathed a breath of fresh air into Armenia’s cycling tradition after independence, and Ashot Chilingarian, who has brought life back to the Yerevan Physics Institute and its Cosmic Ray Division by encouraging and supporting Armenian youth to embrace and satisfy their scientific passion in Armenia.