NATO "Velo", an over 1,000-kilometer, seven-day cycle tour of Estonia involving NATO personnel based in Estonia came to an end Friday afternoon in the border town of Narva.
The tour brought together soldiers from the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) based primarily in Tapa and from the British and Danish armies, as well as from the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), and called in at all of Estonia's major towns as well as the two largest offshore islands.
"It's been a really important event, in showing the cohesion between the British and Danish soldiers with the EDF, all coming together, bearing shared hardships and touring round Estonia for a thousand kilometers," eFP commander, Col. Paul Clayton (U.K.) told ERR's Sergei Stepanov after the finish.
Military doctor with the Danish contingent, Kristen Messen, added that the journey had been hot – daytime temperatures have been above 20C all week, with sunshine predominating – but fun.
"It was fantastic – we got to see the whole of the fantastically beautiful Estonian countryside, passing beautiful waterfalls, then we came to the islands, got a fantastic reception in Tallinn, we've been to Pärnu and Tartu, more or less all over. This leaves great memories, all of it was fantastic," he said.
Col. Clayton added that one of the highlights had had the head of state, President Kersti Kaljulaid, herself a keen cyclist, join them for one stage of the trip.
"For most of us the most exciting thing was having the Estonian president come and join us on Sunday, as we were traveling up from Pärnu and up to Saaremaa. It was a great experience for all of us to have her with us for that day," Col. Clayton, who said the journey was about twice the length of his previous longest cycle ride.
???? 7 days, 1000+km worth of unforgettable memories! #NATOvelo ????????????????????????????♂️ finished in #Narva after cycling across beautiful #Estonia. I'm so proud of our soldiers - powerful display of Allied unity, team spirit, mental resilience and physical strength ???????? #StrongerTogether #WeAreNATO pic.twitter.com/AingWQnxbo— Col Paul Clayton MBE (@ComdUKeFP) August 21, 2020
The cyclists started in Tartu last Saturday, with the first leg taking them to Pärnu, then on to the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, before crossing back to the mainland. On Wednesday, the team arrived in Vabaduse väljak in Tallinn, with two more days to go until the finish line in Narva.
The tour ended at Peetri plats in Narva, and was accompanied by a "meet the soldiers" open event to the public.
"Awesome display of unity & strength by @NATO soldiers completing the #NATOvelo 1000+ km tour around Estonia, it was great to ride together with the tireless soldiers who keep Estonia and @NATO safe" said Sec-Gen Prikk after riding with ????????, ????????, ????????soldiers yesterday. #WeAreAllies pic.twitter.com/mNuPzcP6a0— MoD Estonia (@MoD_Estonia) August 21, 2020
Doctor Kristen Messen noted that the tour had enhanced collaboration, communication and understanding between personnel from the three countries, who form the bedrock of the eFP at present, and that if invited again next year, he would give the tour another go, not least thanks to the friendly reception the group received.
"They were fantastic, friendly people, curious to know what we were doing, clapping and cheering, so I only have positive things to say, it has been a really positive journey for me," he said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte