Their circumstances may vary, but the seven primary cyclists in AXA World Ride '95 share a common goal: to create an awareness for individuals with all forms of disabilities who wish to participate in sports and recreation.
World Ride '95, sponsored by the AXA Group, a Paris-based insurance company, and staged by World T.E.A.M. Sports Inc., a nonprofit amateur sports organization devoted to disabled athletes, will pass through Baltimore tomorrow afternoon. Organizers of the event expect the cyclists -- six of whom are physically disabled -- to arrive at McKeldin Square in the Inner Harbor at around 1:30.
After their stay in Baltimore, the cyclists will ride to Wilmington, Del., before heading to Boston, where they will catch a flight to Ireland for the European leg of the tour. Organizers have invited cyclists in every city to ride along in a show of solidarity. Support vehicles carrying medical, nutritional and other supplies will accompany the riders.
The eight-month ride, which began in Atlanta on March 17, has been divided into 14 stages and will pass through 16 countries, including Russia and Japan, before ending in Washington on Nov. 18.
"This tour is about so much more than a handful of disabled cyclists fulfilling personal dreams," said David Cornelsen, a paraplegic and one of three riders who will hand-cycle the entire distance. "The world will open itself up as we connect with the communities of the world."
Rone Irvine, a Reston, Va., resident and team leader for World Ride '95, lost his left foot and two fingers on his right hand in a 1975 automobile accident, and he wants to show others with physical and mental handicaps that it is possible to overcome life's challenges.
"It just doesn't equate in my mind that I am limited," said Irvine, an elite cyclist who had victories at the 1992 and 1993 U.S. Disabled National Championships. "I may be missing a foot and a few fingers, but it just doesn't slow me down."
Kathryn Rosica, the only able-bodied rider making the 13,000-mile journey, has spent her life involved in activities to bring the disabled into competitive events, and she hopes World Ride '95 will achieve that goal.
"Participation in this event is a personal challenge and an expression of the values which I grew up with and which I strive to live by," said Rosica, who lives in Falls Church, Va. "As as child, I attended school in an experimental program that brought kids of differing abilities together. This experience instilled in me an appreciation for equality, sharing abilities and facing challenges."
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond set the pace at the start of the event and offered the riders this advice: "Take it day by day. That way the distance is less overwhelming. . . . You do it little bits."