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, July 20, 2010


Stage 15: 19 July
We had a long day ahead, and I got up at the Gite, doubting. Doubting my capability of carrying on with the cycling, and doubting how to confront a new race course, Chateaubriant, and doubting if we would find a place to stay at night on the rural roads from Chateaubriant to the medieval town of Angers on the Loire.
The rural Gite was invigorating. How many of you have experienced TOTAL SILENCE. It was so very silent that you could hear a man's fart in the next village 5 miles away.
The winding farm roads from the Gite to Chateaubriant reinvigorated me. Twenty-two km later, we came to the stately entrance to this rural track, lined with tall shade trees, as if we were entering a castle.
The track itself is simple, American style, mile turf oval with an inner dirt course. The past performances were also simple: no Paris-Turf for sale, so I was without my statistical advantage. There were past performances but no trainer stats.
The meeting included 4 flat races and then 3 jumping events. Alan and I zoomed in on the fourth race MULTI, where you have to pick the top four finishers in any order, and with a good back-and-fourth discussion, we came up with 7 possible horses. We would have liked more time, and more info in order to stagger multiple tickets, but we ran out of time (there were no forms available the night before in Senonnes).
So we simply boxed the four, reducing our potential payoff because of so many combinations.
But our horses came in: three medium longshots and a favorite, and we got back 9-2.
(In the previous race, Alan had picked a 15-1 winner, but the doubts surrounding our very primitive information led him to pass the race. Alan is not a "woulda-shoulda-coulda" kind of guy. He recognized his legitimate doubts and there were no regrets. That's the sign of a professional horseplayer.)
We were against the clock to make it to Angers, leaving the track in the afternoon and having to cover 80 km. On his own, Alan would have made it, but it's hilly country and I was cycling through a cramp. By lying down and using my backpack as a pillow, while looking up and a 19th century fantasy castle that could have been designed by Walt Disney himself, I got a second wind, and we made it to La Poueze, a half hour before sunset, only 23 km from Angers: only to discover that there were no hotels, not Gites, and no "chambre d'hotes" (B&B).
My tires had all the air I needed but my ego was deflated, having had to trail Alan all the way, and in effect, we were stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The only strategy was to barrel forward for another 6km to the next town, St. Clément-de-la-Place, and for this trip my adrenalin kicked in and I was able to keep up with Alan and even head him from time to time.
I was prepared to ask the local priest to put us up in the Church, but those guys are hard to find at 9:30 pm. We considered sleeping outdoors, but the mosquitos were especially thick in the air; in spite of swarms of their predator, the bad, whirling around.
We asked a lady on the outskirts of town, and she said, "Yes, you'll find a Gite in the center of town."
We found it, but still, it was likely to have no vacancy at the late hour. It was an old farm-building with a crooked outside staircase that had no railing. I knocked on the door. No one answered.
I checked three doors down where lights were on: and to make a long story short, it was the owner, and yes they had a double room. He even through in what he termed a hasty dinner, which tasted like "haute cuisine". Throw in the local Anjou red wine, and this was a true victory.
At the table, with the other guests and the owners (the wife runs a little restaurant theatre across the street), we heard the owner complain the plight of the local family farmers as a result of soil-depleting agribusiness. It was his only diatribe. Otherwise, he charmed everyone with his sense of humor.
After dinner, a walk through the town itself. Noteworthy is that they use no electric lighting in the streets. Reminds me of some places in Central America in the early 1970s. Dark, silent, and only the bats moving around. It was a stony silence as most of the dormered row houses came from centuries ago.
Total kilometers:
88 for the day, including the morning trip ro Chateaubriant and the long and hilly afternoon voyage to within 17 km if Angers. We entered the day with 640 km and ended with 728 (455 miles).
A scorcher is predicted for tomorrow and we must navigate through the complex city of Angers, in order to get to the Loire River. Lots of cycling but no race course. The eventual goal is Vichy.
Please excuse any typos. I'm in an internet café and we're losing time on the road.
PS. Alan and I send our thanks to Laurent, of the Paris-Turf, for adding a clip about our trip in his zapping column.

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