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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

WATCH: Riding for Ronaldo, Portugal fan completes road trip to Russia for World Cup and charity

Helder Batista spent 45 days peddling 5,100 kilometres across Europe to arrive in Moscow

Portuguese cyclist Helder Batista arrived by bike in Russia's capital to attend the World Cup. Tatyana Makeyeva / Reuters
Portuguese cyclist Helder Batista arrived by bike in Russia's capital to attend the World Cup. Tatyana Makeyeva / Reuters

The road to Russia can be tough, but nothing was going to stop Portuguese cyclist Helder Batista from supporting his national team at the World Cup in Russia.

Like the players' figurative long road to the tournament, Batista has covered a lot of ground, spending 45 days peddling 5,100 kilometres across Europe to arrive in Moscow on Monday.

Tired but happy, Batista will take a brief respite from the rigours of the road in the Russian capital before going to the Portuguese team base in Kratovo.

"There were storms, more in Germany, where it was hailing the whole time," he said. "But at the end with a few difficulties, I overcame it all, thinking of the family, my wife and son is in Portugal, my brother and sister-in-law and nieces, all my friends are in Portugal and at bad moments I thought of them.

"I think of the children of the charity I am supporting, who I want to help, and you keep peddling, even when you don't feel like it, you just keep peddling.

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"When Portugal qualified for the World Cup, I decided I was going to come to Russia by bike," Batista said, outside the Bolshoi Theatre as other football fans took photos with him.

And so on May 6 he got on his bike and set off from Alenquer, just north of Lisbon, crossing Western Europe and the Baltics on his epic journey to the Portuguese team base.

The mental strength needed for the tour was even more than the physical strength, he said. Cycling alone for so many kilometres with visa and communication issues was difficult, but thinking about his family and friends kept him going, as well as the children's cancer charity Acreditar, which he was peddling along to support.

He has a tent, sleeping bag, and lots of winter clothes in his trailer, but after the storms in Germany it was more warm-weather clothing he needed for the hot Eastern European summer.

He said the warm welcome in Russia was a pleasant surprise. And after reading all the negative press in advance, he said the only issues he had cycling through the country was being delayed by people trying to take pictures and asking what he was doing and how he was managing.

Portuguese cyclist Helder Batista had to pose for selfies on many occasions during his journey. Tatyana Makeyeva / Reuters
Portuguese cyclist Helder Batista had to pose for selfies on many occasions during his journey. Reuters

One time, when his Sim card was not working and he could not organise money online, the Russian police even took him to a bank and back.

"I think these people had the need to show to the rest of the world that they are exactly like us," he said. "There are many countries, we are all different, but there is only one human race, and even if you try hard, there's no other.

"I don't understand why we act like there are so many differences when we are so equal, so different but so equal."

One of Batista's most persistent problems were the flies that had left their mark all over his legs – and trying to see the games along the route, especially when Portugal took on Spain.

That game he watched in the hotel and almost woke up the other guests when cheering Cristiano Ronaldo's goal.

"This generation, there is still no name for them, on the pitch they showed that they are a great team," he said. "And we have 11 million Portuguese people behind that great team.

"Of course that team has a leading light, that lights the way, and that is Ronaldo, no doubt about it, but behind that light, we are behind them. We will be world champions."

With Ronaldo as his leading light, Batista's route to Russia can only be a road to success.