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Two cyclists share bike, goal: Dispel myths about the disabled

Two Romanian cyclists are pedaling the 1,300 miles to the London Olympics on a tandem bike hoping to dispel any notions that people with disabilities are limited in their pursuits.
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/ Source: NBC News

For two cyclists, the trek across the European continent is only the beginning of their journey.

Florin Georgescu and Alexandru Racanel are pedaling the 1,300 miles from the western Romanian city of Arad to the London Olympics on a tandem bike hoping to dispel any preconceived notions that people with disabilities are limited in their pursuits by their handicaps.

"In Romania, we still struggle against this kind of mentality that if you are a person with some kind of disability, people think you can't do many things," Georgescu told NBC News.

Georgescu, 37, lost his sight when he was 14 years old due to a degenerative disease he had since birth, but he chooses not to dwell on it.

An education
He prefers instead to talk about his studies in psychology and his Ph.D. in teaching and learning methods for the blind; his passion for chess; and his love of cycling.

"I believe sports are one of the ways we can get to know ourselves better," Georgescu said. "When you practice a sport, you realize what you can and cannot do, you can educate your patience, educate your perseverance, and you can know yourself in frustrating situations."

Florin Georgescu (left) and Alexandru Racanel (right) stand before a cathedral in Linz, Austria. The two men are pedaling the 1,300 miles from western Romania to the London Olympics on a tandem bike.Dolce Sport

The trek across Europe has already had its share of problems, from several flat tires and issues with the bicycle chain, to stretches of busy traffic, pouring rain and merciless heat. The two planned to travel up to 75 miles a day, but, along the way, it has proven difficult to pedal more than 50 miles a day on uphill terrain and against strong winds.

Georgescu and Racanel began their journey on July 15 and plan to reach London on Aug. 5.

'Still doing fine'
As the two men were forced to take an unplanned extended break in Heilbronn, Germany, while their bike under went repairs, Georgescu thought back to the more than 600 miles they had already traveled.

"Of course a sort of muscular fatigue begins to seep in," he said, "but we're still doing fine."

The trip has been two years in the making, following a successful 2009 tour of Romania, in which Georgescu and Racanel traveled about 800 miles, often on rough country roads.

But the two men had no money for the new project, so in the months leading up to the Olympics they were resigned that their trip to London would not take place.

Enter that decided to set up a partnership with the cyclists and support the trip as part of a campaign titled .

"Along with the far-reaching sporting events Dolce Sport broadcasts, we also wish to encourage individual performances, particularly when those involved – in this case Florin Georgescu – can become role models for all of us, and encourage us to go beyond what's comfortable," Vlad Enachescu, Dolce Sport general manager, said in a statement.

The company also provided the cyclists with a support team along the way and a recreational vehicle, in which they spend their nights in various campgrounds across Europe.

Seeing the world, seeing life
Georgescu and Racanel met more than five years ago and they have been riding together for about four years. Racanel is the athlete, the fitness buff, Georgescu said. "I'm of a more contemplative nature," he added.

But Racanel said riding a tandem bike is an equal partnership. "Pedaling alongside Florin is something completely normal," he told Dolce Sport.

The pair started a , which promotes the social inclusion of people with disadvantages. After they complete their trip to London, Georgescu said he hopes to raise money to buy 20 tandem bikes to donate to schools for the blind across Romania. Down the road, he also hopes to establish para-cycling as a recognized sport in Romania.

As Aug. 5 approaches, Georgescu and Racanel continue riding across Germany, toward Luxembourg, then Calais, France, and finally London. They do not have tickets to any Olympic events, but they feel their journey has already been rewarding.

"The world is very big and very beautiful, and life is worth living to see it, even when you can't actually see it," Georgescu said.

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