Who is Mladen Belchev?

This is my father, Mladen, which translates as youthful, young. He is 59 years old and loves cycling and bathing in the snow. Sport has always been his passion. He is a man of dreams and he has inspired many around him to cycle and do more outdoor sports. His dream was to retire and spend the rest of his life cycling and fishing.

Mladen retired in 2010. During that year he cycled thousands of kilometres around Bulgaria and took part in many cycling events across the country. His dream was to ride from Bulgaria to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. But in May 2011 – exactly a year after he retired – he was hit and seriously injured by a motorbike while cycling in a park in Pleven.

Mladen suffered two broken legs, four broken ribs, three cervical vertebrae and a severe injury to his left arm, which was left partially paralysed. His chances to live were estimated to be 20%. When I arrived at the hospital to see him, I didn’t want to imagine that he would never cycle again. I was so happy he was alive, so I promised him that I would do everything possible to make his dream come true. As he lay, injured, on a respiratory machine in an intensive care unit in Pleven, the idea for the European Velo Marathon and alternative Olympic torch relay for road peace was born.

Despite his injuries, my father has made an amazing recovery, and will cycle the 3,500km journey. But not on a normal bicycle –  he can only manage that distance with all his injuries with the aid of a HASE recumbent tricycle.

The 3-wheeled ‘delta’ (double wheels at the back) recumbent bike offers potential solutions for riders such as those recovering from a stroke, and those with arm loss or weakness, balance problems and/or unilateral leg loss or weakness. Our version of the bike has pedal operated brakes and gear controls all on one handlebar, so it is especially suited to riders with arm issues.

Mladen’s sporting career

  • Born 26 February 1953 in the Bulgarian village of Traphiste
  • 1966, aged 13, begins track and road cycling
  • 1967 – 1971, takes up athletics, competing in 800m, 1500m, 2000m
  • 1972, begins working as an organiser in the Regional Hospital gym. Continues to train and compete in different athletic disciplines
  • 1976: receives his first bicycle “Ukraine” as a gift from his wife, Valentina
  • 1978 moves to Pleven with Valentina and his eldest daughter, Katherine
  • 1979 – 1989, trains in Pleven and begins marathon running, completing six marathons and two triathlons
  • 1990, takes part in the first bicycle tourist transition velocipede around Bulgaria
  • 2000, buys his first geared bike
  • 2001, takes part in “In the Footsteps of Tanyo Voivoda” cycling expedition – the first of three he completes
  • 2003, competes in Breveti
  • 2004 – 2010, participates in five national cycling campaigns covering distances from 700 – 900km
  • 2007, comes first in 1,220km race in Bulgaria (his second marathon title) qualifying for a place in the international ‘Paris-Brest-Paris’ brevet
  • 2007 achieves third marathon title after two ascents of C. Botev, four laps of the 100 km from Vitosha and three ascents of the Black Peak. He took part in four ‘Veteran’ cycling races, ranking second. Team takes part in 24h 360km velomarathon.
  • 2008, elected President of cycling club to  Tourist Society “Kaylashka Valley” – Pleven.
  • 2010, participates in 24 hour mountain velomaraton – team standings with a final second place again.
  • 2010, claims his fourth marathon title after taking part in the first charity bicycle tour of Bulgaria: 3150 km, 33 days in 33 cities, under the motto “For safe cycling”
  • In 2016, he will be 50 years, in sports and cycling!