Maybe You Thought Tour de Houston Was Free Because of Twitter, Facebook Gaffe

On Monday, February 17, I started to see several posts on Facebook and Twitter sharing a coupon code for registration for the Tour de Houston. "Register for free," the posts said. "Code expires at midnight."

Between 600 and 700 people used that free code to register for the ride. The only problem? The code was leaked.

This led to the Mayor's Office of Special Events sending out an uncomfortable letter the following day telling everyone who registered that they could not, in fact, ride the Tour de Houston for free.

The ride was founded in 2005 by then-Houston Mayor Bill White, an avid cyclist, and was conceived as a tour through Houston's six wards. The ride went into hiatus in 2011 after losing its title sponsor, but was restored last year. The tour now features routes of 20, 40 and 70 miles and is an official training ride for the MS 150. Proceeds from the ride go toward the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, specifically earmarked for reforestation following the drought of 2011.

More than 10 percent of registrants tried to use the leaked code, according to Susan Christian, director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events. The ride typically draws 5,000 riders.

The code was originally aimed at riders who were participating for the event's sponsors, according to the tour's official line.

"We have no way to tell how the leak originated," she said. "Free 'promo' codes were not advertised or shared by the city of Houston. What we are just thrilled with is that 98% of the responses were positive."

Christian said most people affected by the leak re-registered. But the leak might create future hassles for sponsored riders.

"To prevent this from happening in the future, we will not distribute sponsor registration codes to sponsors," Christian said. "Each designated sponsor team captain will gather their individual team waivers and input their participants."

The Tour de Houston takes place March 16. Online registration is open through March 12.

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