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Touring Russian cyclist makes Midtown pit stop after friends’ jest turns prophetic

Midtown dentist Dr. Joel Benk recently filled the 'hole in the head' of touring Russian cyclist, all for a good cause and in the spirit of Southern hospitality.

By Margaret M. Jones

When Russian cyclist Paul Grachev planned a round-the-world bicycle tour, some friends joked that he must have a hole in his head. In Midtown Atlanta, he admitted they were right.

Paul and fellow athlete Alen Khayrullin left Russia and rode west from their home town of Kazan in Tatarstan into Western Europe. They planned to cover 12,000 miles and visit 13 countries before returning home by July 6th in time for the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Universiade, an international multi-sport event for university athletes.

Kazan, the thousand-year-old capital of Tatarstan (a Russian State), is the sixth largest city in Russia. Kazan has been called the “Sports Capital of Russia.”

The pair entered the United States in late January and headed south to Atlanta. On the way to Atlanta last weekend, Paul discovered the hole: a deep cavity close to the nerve of one of his teeth.

Fortunately, Dr. Joel Benk, a long-time Midtown dentist at Atlanta Dental Center, came to the rescue. He quickly and painlessly filled the tooth and proclaimed Paul ready to continue the journey west.

The cyclists’ goals for the tour are three-fold: to encourage to adopt a healthy lifestyle and inspire people by their example on the tour, to honor the memory of Onisim Pankratov, a military hero from Kazan who was the first person to cycle around the world, and to promote the 27th Summer Universiade, the World Student Games, which are scheduled this summer in Kazan.

Sponsors of the tour include the Federation of Sport Tourism of the Republic of Tatarstan (their home state in Russia); the President of Tatarstan; the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Sport and Tourism; and the Directorate of the Universiade.   

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is providing assistance. Dr. Joel Benk serves as Director of the Foundation for a Drug-Free World for the state of Georgia.  

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that empowers youth and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions and live drug-free.

About the Riders:

Paul Grachev is a 47-year-old teacher of English, History and Social Sciences. He has 22 years of bicycle touring experience and was the bronze medalist at the Russian Bicycle Touring Championship. 

Alen Khayrullin is a 26-year-old IT engineer, cyclist with 10 years of bicycle touring experience, organizer and participant in the 2011 Capitals of Russia Cycling Race and other cycling-related events.

To follow Alen and Paul, visit www.facebook.com/groups/463149250403265

Javier Gomez February 28, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Inspiring. Let's have a world without drugs! What a concept!

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