NATO cyclists to cover over 1,000 km in week-long Estonia tour

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Participants at the end of last year's NATO Velo tour, at the Narva finish line. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Personnel based in Estonia with the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup and other formations are embarking on a thousand-plus-kilometer bike ride around Estonia, starting tomorrow, Thursday.

The tour, dubbed NATO Velo, is the second of its kind, following last year's inaugural event.

eFP commander, Col. Dai Bevan, said that: "NATO Velo 2020 was a great success, and we hope to repeat that success this summer."

Whereas last year's event took place in August, this year it has been brought forward to June, and will also coincide with the Victory Day (Võidupüha) ceremonies, centered this year on Paide, on June 23.

"This time, we will have participants from many of the allied nations that make up the NATO battlegroups in Poland and the Baltic states, as well as soldiers and officers from Estonia and the other nations in this region," Col. Bevan continued, via a NATO press release.

"With this wide participation, NATO Velo 2021 will prove a powerful demonstration of NATO´s commitment to this region, and a show of unity and spirit of cooperation between those nations. The extra bonus is that the bicycling tour gives us the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Estonian countryside and visit some of the towns and cities in Estonia," he added.

Around 50 officers and other ranks are to take part this year, with a total of up to 10 allied nations represented.

The entire tour lasts seven days, starting in Tallinn Thursday and making its way from there eastwards towards Rakvere, then south to Tartu, before turning to the southwest, and Pärnu.

The route continues in a northerly direction, to Haapsalu, before the penultimate stage and Paide, in central Estonia.

NATO Velo 2021 itinerary Source: NATO eFP

Following the Victory Day events, the cyclists have one more leg to finish – Paide to Tallinn – and will have covered close to 1,000 km all told.

While in Pärnu (June 20) and Paide (June 23), the cyclists will host "meet the soldiers" events, where members of the public will get to see both personnel and materiel, ranging from small arms to armored vehicles, and will have the opportunity to learn more about the eFP, its role in Estonia and NATO in a wider perspective.

To that end, Col. Bevan noted that the eFP and NATO's main role here was in collective defense and deterrence, but also in engaging in a positive way with hearts and minds -  a principle played out in the other eFP battlegroups.

Estonia's eFP, based at Tapa, is British-led with contingents taking part, or having taken part, from Denmark, France and Belgium, since the battlegroup became a reality in early 2017.

The analog battlegroups in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are Canadian-, German- and U.S.-led respectively, with a host of other NATO nations taking part.

NATO also conducts Baltic Air Policing duties, in a separate endeavor based at Ämari. The mission is currently being conducted by the Italian Air Force.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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