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Photo Story: Mountain Biking in Chernobyl

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Richard Gasperotti speaks about his Ukrainian biking adventure.Even though Ukraine is now better known for defending its own seaman detained by old angry big bear living next door, this country is, in fact, a great place for mountain biking too.
bigquotes I have been wondering about visiting Ukraine for a long time, just to be invited by the importer of the Bikeworkx products. And so I had realised that time was ripe to poke my nose into this promising countryRichard Gasperotti
It hadn't taken long till Gaspi packed bis bike, put it on the plane and took off to arrive in the capital city of Kiev where he was warmly welcomed by Alexander Todorov and other guys from the Broken Rim bicycle company. Kiev is an active metropolis with an incredibly rich historical past. It's not only the modern capital of Ukraine, but also the historical centre of the country's religious and cultural past.While most of the visitors crave for visiting stunning historical monuments like the Golden Gate or St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Gaspi was heading to the best local biking spots.



In the first day, Gaspi had an appointment with the local MTB crew at the trails of Mishelinovka, derived from a Ukraine word for the mousetrap. The facility is believed to be the largest enduro area in the countryside near the capital city with 8 different trails to pick from. Most of the trails run through a wonderful canyon with the incredible outlooks at the surrounding landscapes. "I really loved this spot as each trail had a variety of both natural and man-made obstacles,” says Gaspi who took a lecture of cycling basics and explained some more advanced techniques of riding to the local riders.






The program followed by a stop in a shop called "A bit rim". In an amiable company with emotional atmosphere, Richard recollected interesting stories from his biking trips in the framework of the project, ZAM is a journey of one freerider and screened all the seven episodes of the documentary movie which has been filmed since 2012 by Gaspi's crew all around the world including Mongolia, Taiwan or Azerbaijan.
Visiting of Chernobyl Nuclear Station siteThe next day, Gaspi joined the group tour sightseeing the site of former Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. Visiting contaminated areas including the city of Pripyat is relatively safe. But at the same time, there are large numbers of objects and zones, where the level of radiation contamination is perilously high.


Therefore, a visit to this area is possible only after receiving permission from state authorities, passing passport control and special briefing only accompanied by employees of the 'Alienation Zone' facility with an individual instrument for measuring the received radiation dose - a dosimeter. Passing into and out of the zone is carried out only through a checkpoint, where the level of radiation contamination of visitors and their belongings is monitored.

Surprisingly, thirty years after the accident, five ‘Red Book’ species of birds appeared in the exclusion zone, which have not lived there before, as the result of leaving the countryside to the mother nature. "It was necessary to obtain special permission to get my bike into the territory. Obviously, it was not much about riding itself but a day spent exploring abandoned buildings, which were left once forever just hours after the accident, was an overwhelming experience," says Gaspi.

In 2016, 25.000 people visited the exclusion zone and the city of Pripyat, in 2017 more than 30 thousand people visited it, and in 2018 the number of visitors surpassed 50 thousand.

On the territory of the exclusion zone, not far from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, there is the Duga 5N32 (Duga-1) over-the-horizon radar station, which is one of the elements of the early detection system for launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.This object has never been used.... and the yellow sign is here for tourists only.
Riding at the Khortytsia islandFrom Chernobyl, Gaspi moved to the industrial city of Zaporizhia situated on the banks of the Dnieper River. The best trails were easy to find at the different sites of the Khortytsia which is the largest island in the River Dnieper. The island is a unique natural reserve included in the Top 7 wonders of Ukraine. "In spite of wonderful landscape and picturesque rural architecture, there was the air filled with the exhausts from the heavy industry plants that were visible from each corner of the island. Nonetheless, all six trails were really nice and fun to ride," says Richard.

The final day of Gaspi's visit to Ukraine coincided with the mini DH Cup final of Ukraine that took place in Khortytsia island. Each rider had two attempts on tracks with the length of 450 m and the summation of both achieved times made the final result.

"The country still remains affected by the history of being part of the Soviet Union, however, it's already stepped out from the vicious circle and is now heading to its independent future. To me, spending time with local riders resembled the best period of the mountain biking attitude in Western Europe around the year 2004 when all friends hold tight together, people invested their entire energy and free time into building new trails and developing the community. Whenever possible, I'd be delighted to come back and meet these true riders,” Richard Gasperotti says.Text: Adam Marsal / Bitiy ObodPhotographer: Maksym Protsenkoorganized by Bitiy Obod /Broken Rim/ Sasha and YanaBikeworkx OfficialChernobyl Adventure