Tour de Marco 5 goes underground temporarily

Scott H. Shook

The originally planned Tour de Marco 5 was cancelled for 2015, but don't tell that to Les Horwitz, a financial planner from Naples who is staging it anyway as an underground unsponsored bike ride.

On Sunday, April 19, at 7:30 a.m., Horwitz will lead cycling enthusiasts from the foot of the Stan Gober Memorial Bridge for Tour de Marco 5, without its original sponsor, the Marco Area Family YMCA.

"I propose an underground ride – no prizes, no entry fee, no bananas in Goodland," Horowitz said. "For a lot of us, it's our yearly chance to ride on Marco Island. We don't want our friends to be denied the beauty of riding on Marco this year."

Horwitz, a veteran of past Tour de Marco events, took action after finding out this year's tour was being canceled.

He doesn't want there to be an asterisk when future cyclists look back on the Tour de Marco.

"Roger Maris has the most famous one," Horwitz said, referring to the asterisk that was placed behind Maris's record of 61 home runs in a season that bested Babe Ruth.

"It reminds us that the playing field was tilted, or that something larger than the event itself was taking place, postponing the event for another season or to a later date. The year 2060, is supposed to be the 50th consecutive running of the Tour de Marco, except you'll notice an asterisk listed next to 2015," said Horwitz.

"I don't want the 2016 edition of the ride to feature riders that had to wait two years to experience the best ride Southwest Florida has to offer," said Horwitz.

Horwitz isn't the only one wondering why the Tour de Marco was canceled for 2015.

Iggy Sprude, owner of Waterworks Pools, who has participated in all four previous tours, said, "You can't let this die."

"The real reason for the cancellation is because the Y's facility is being used," said Al Musico, chairman of the island's bike path committee.

Because the tour's beneficiary, the Marco Y, is constructing its own new addition, the YMCA air-torium is not available as a staging area for the tour.

It was decided the tour would be put on hold for 2015, with the understanding that it would be back in 2016, with the Marco Island Academy stepping up as its organizer.

"We went to the Marco Island Academy and they were interested," Musico said "This will be an annual event for them."

Strong commitment

"We have a strong commitment from the high school," said Jeanette Gravett, organizer of last year's Tour de Marco. "It's definitely not going to die."

"We want this to be a self-perpetuating event," Musico said, "it turns out it's real popular. I've even got people in Naples asking me about it."

All bikers welcome to join in

(Editor's note: This personal appeal to the biking community was written by Scott H. Shook, a member of the island's bike path committee.)

Five years ago, I convinced my fellow bike committee members that we needed a bicycle tour to show off our rapidly improving bicycling facilities.

The committee reluctantly agreed to let me organize the inaugural event. But it was clear that I was on my own. It seemed like we had to clear countless hurdles to get the first tour rolling.

To the surprise of many, the first Tour de Marco was a success, despite the fact we had no budget. The only money we spent was for four temporary week-of-the ride road signs.

Local media helped us to beat the drums in the press.

We had to pay for the police officers, who did a great job of keeping the route safe. The YMCA became our beneficiary and provided the insurance that the city of Marco Island wisely demanded. We knew we could afford to pay the police because we had 30 days to pay the bill and we were confident that we would make enough money to pay them.

I will be joining Horwitz on Sunday, April 19, the originally scheduled date of Tour de Marco 5. Won't you join us? Where you park your car is your business. There will be no entry fee. No registration – and most importantly – there will be no asterisk for 2015.