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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Pedals of Passion: One Man’s Journey

Patrick Autissier rides for a cure
Patrick Autissier
Patrick Autissier rides for a cure

This summer, a medical researcher will peddle 3,000 miles as a solo rider, in an effort to raise money for HIV-Aids vaccine research.

Patrick Autissier, a 42 year-old Frenchman living in Belmont Massachusetts, is on the cutting edge of Harvard Medical Research Staff, at Beth Israel Hospital. On June 19, he will trade in his lab coat for riding gear as he embarks on a grueling cross-country race. Cyclists throughout the world hail this Race Across America (RAAM) as the “Mt. Everest” of their sport. Autissier hopes to not only complete the road race, but also take HIV-AIDS fundraising to an even higher altitude.

Autissier, learned of the elite race while reading an article in a French newspaper. RAAM, a 3,000 mile cycle race is a non-stop race full of sleep-deprived athletes on an ongoing challenge of body, mind, and soul.

Contestants push their limits, making the nine day trek from San Diego to Atlantic City on June 28. Currently, approximately 150 cyclists have pre-registered and 15 different countries will be represented in this event. Most participants finish within the nine-day allotment, yet riders sometimes arrive within 15 days pushing their will to satisfy their own competitiveness. Just to finish the journey is considered a personal win for all participants.

Learning of RAAM drove Autissier to train more and prepare each day for the ride of a lifetime.

Despite the fact that Autissier hasn’t experienced the loss of a loved one to HIV, the cause remains very close to his heart. “I simply work everyday on HIV vaccine research and this project is a unique opportunity to help the HIV vaccine research in another way.”

According to Harvard medical research, every seven seconds someone around the world is infected with HIV. Autissier states that two million additional transactions of the disease will have taken place between the time when he first began his preparation for RAAM and race time.

His goal is to raise $2 million, everything after that he says, will create a significant addition to the research.

Before moving to the United States four years ago, Autissier had a lot of prior ultra-cycling experience, including the completion of nine marathons and 18 triathlons over the past 20 years. As recently as last year, Autissier came in 17th place in a hard fought 750-mile race from Boston to Montreal and back. For the RAAM, he is registered as a solo rider and will become the first Frenchman to attempt the grueling journey.

After receiving training in health sciences, Autissier says he fell into the research field. His passion for competitive cycling was the original driving force to complete the RAAM, however, working in this field made him want to stand up and make a difference.

“I don’t think causes are different, whatever it is for cancer, AIDS, or any rare diseases. We’re talking about people who are suffering and we are trying to help them by any means,” explains Autissier. He continues that, “The importance of the HIV pandemic is huge compared to rare diseases, but that doesn’t mean that HIV related charities are superior to others.”

Any money generated from this fundraising event will go directly to the Harvard Medical AIDS Research Division.

“I don’t want to use any money from the fundraising to cover my expenses. So I could really use more sponsors to help me cover the race,” says Autissier.

According to Autissier, thus far in the effort, Decathlon USA, TV5 USA and Boston Accueil have signed on as sponsors.

“We would like to see more big names to help in this event,” he says.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the race, making a donation, or finding out more information should visit www.patrickautissier.org.