Why We're Doing This, and How You Can Help

What would inspire two men, ages 65 and 59, to take on 11 racetracks in 21 stages and 25 days over 1,000 kilometers...on their bicycles?

The way we see it, Thoroughbred race horses have contributed to the very meaning of life, so they too deserve to retire with dignity and not be sent to the slaughterhouse just because they now do six furlongs in 1:16 instead of 1:12.

As American expatriates living in Paris, we have decided to ride our own Tour de France--riding from racetrack to racetrack across France--during the 'real' Tour de France to raise money for Thoroughbred retirement. But we need your help.

We invite you to follow our journey, and if you'd like to sponsor us, just click on www.firstgiving.com/trf or on the Sponsor Us link below.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation currently cares for over 1200 unwanted horses. When you sponsor us, we are helping them in their mission to save ALL unwanted racehorses.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010



The idea for race track bicycle journeys was born about four years ago as I was writing my racing-crime novel, Tropical Downs. My main character bicycles to tracks like Saratoga and Laurel. I thought: If HE can do it, then why can’t I?
Fiction often imitates the reality of an writer’s life. In this case, the author’s life began to imitate his fiction. (Though I have not dared to reproduce, in real life, the scene where my character was trying to escape by bicycle from a big bad man in a bigger badder car on the streets of L.A.)
Stimulated by my character, I began to bicycle to the tracks outside the city of Paris. (I had been doing most of my inner-city Paris commuting by bike for years.) My personal opening day for outer-city race-track commutes was a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Arc day was the right time to start. When the sun ducks behind the Eiffel Tower and it’s time to go home, traffic is backed up in hopeless gridlock, so special racetrack shuttles end up like immovable sculptures. It’s a “bordel” if you pardon the harsh French slang. But on a bike, you can glide pass the havoc over a dependable cycling path through a glorious forest.
The circumference of Longchamp, sprawling within a clearing of the Boulogne Forest, is about a mile and three quarters. And yet, viewed from above, it’s only an inner track! Outside and around the race course, you see a bicycle circuit, with serious bicyclers flowing by like a tropical river of multi-colored rapids.
Once I had experienced the inner and “outer” Longchamp, I began questioning the race caller metaphor about a horse “motoring” by his rivals in the stretch. “Pedaling” seemed more appropriate.
During summers, my Tour partner Alan Kennedy and I began taking time to pedal to tracks far beyond the Paris region. This past summer, we “stretched out” to our longest “Tour de Race-Course France”, covering five different tracks in five days over a distance of 300 kilometers.
Not bad, I thought, for a guy who was 64 at the time. That’s when Alan, who also qualifies for AARP membership, suggested we cycle for a good cause: Thoroughbred retirement. I’m not usually quick-witted at connecting the dots, but in this case, it came naturally. I’ve often felt as if I were going through life with a claiming price on my head.
I’d like to think I’ve worked about as much into the GDP as the equine claimers I’ve bet on. For better or for worse, my fate has often been linked to theirs.
Race fans feel rightful outrage or profound sadness when an equine athlete breaks down on the track. That’s because we see when it happens. But no one sees what happens to hard-knocking Thoroughbreds when they can no longer do six furlongs in 1:14.
We lament the passing of Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup champions, but take no notice when the horse that won us a glorious trifecta a few years ago mysteriously disappears from the face of the earth.
This July 3 when the real Tour de France begins, we will be embarking on our own 21-day alternative tour de France, covering 11 race courses and approximately 1,000 kilometers. We will be riding to raise money for the senior citizens of the thoroughbred universe, while maybe scoring a few points in defense of quality of life for human seniors as well.
If the industry could get it’s act together and make a tiny deduction from all handle, maybe one tenth of one percent, dedicated to retiring Tbreds gracefully, then our on-the-road fundraising would not be necessary.
Our tour de France falls between the end of the Triple Crown season and the beginning of the big summer meets at Saratoga and Del Mar. I hope it will be a refreshing period for you to enjoy our racetrack Tour de France “trip notes” on this blog, with a few choice jockey and trainer comments, and including our tribulations at the pari-mutuel windows of some stunningly beautiful race courses.
Yeah, I know it's presumptuous for us to compete against the real Tour de France, but those guys never whirr past a race track, and even if they did, they wouldn't stop to make a bet.

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