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Bike-a-Thons I & II were both great successes. The money raised by Vatche’s sponsors has worked wonders for thousands of families in rural Armenia and Artsakh. Vatche’s ride itself has caught the interest of many other bike-lovers who want to join him in helping Armenia. Varoujan is thus planning to make the Bike-a-Thon an annual event. However, he wants to shift its focus from fundraising to agrotourism. Though many thousands of foreigners visit Armenia each year, almost all of them stay in Yerevan, along with the money they spend. An annual Bike-a-Thon would be excellent incentive for tourists to visit rural Armenia and witness both its natural beauty and its agricultural bounty. Not only would agrotourism give a needed boost to the rural economy, but it would let foreigners see the great potential for investment in Armenia’s countryside. If the Bike-a-Thon continues to grow bigger every year, it could eventually attract world-class bikers who would use Armenia’s rugged terrain as preparation for larger cross-country races, including the world-famous Tour de France.
We are already making preparations for Bike-a-Thon III, being held in Summer 2005. Vatche will be accompanied by several other bikers, eager to support Armenia. Though the list of riders has not been set, there are several who have contacted us, wanting to participate in this great event. Vatche and his compadres will ride from the ancient Gantsasar monastery, through Artsakh and southern Armenia, along Lake Sevan, across northern Armenia, and down into the Araks valley, finishing in Yerevan. Along the way, they will rely on the hospitality of the local population to regain their strength. Their efforts can attract many supporters, from inside Armenia and out, to see them in action. The tourists will also be able to visit the many natural and historical wonders of the country. Media coverage of the Bike-a-Thon will bring rural Armenia into the spotlight, showing the great potential of the countryside. Donations from supporters will be welcomed in lieu of traveling to see the Bike-a-Thon; money raised will also be invested in agrotourism and publicity.
For more information about how you can help rural Armenia, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail (email@example.com). Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.