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Geoff’s tour de force

Posted on May 31 2005 at 10:15:53

Geoff

Barnt Green resident and former football star Geoff Thomas has exchanged his boots for a bike as he takes on a special fund-raising challenge…

Over the past six months, Barnt Green and the surrounding area have been Geoff Thomas’s training ground as he prepares to cycle the entire length of the Tour de France route.

The gruelling 3548 km ride will raise cash for two leukaemia charities, a cause very close to Geoff’s heart since battling the disease himself.

The former Crystal Palace, Wolves and England midfielder will begin his tour on June 26, completing all 21 stages of the course in the same number of days as the professional cyclists.

Cycling on the Lickey Hills has helped prepare him for the mountainous terrain he’ll encounter, and his training regime has included lengthy rides to places like Oxford and Stratford.

Geoff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in 2003, at a time when he was enjoying his retirement from football and running a successful clothing business with his wife Julie.

Luckily the disease was caught in the early stages, although he still required a bone marrow transplant as well as intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Stem cells donated by his sister were transplanted to replace the leukaemic cells which had been destroyed by the chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The treatment was a success, and while Geoff continues to be monitored as an outpatient, it is hoped that he can look forward to a life free of leukaemia.

Geoff’s determination helped him through the intensive treatment and will help drive him to complete the Tour de France route.

He was inspired to take up the challenge after reading Lance Armstrong’s book, which tells the story of the six-times Tour de France winner’s own struggle against cancer.

“As a professional athlete myself, reading about Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer inspired me and gave me more determination to fight leukaemia,” Geoff explains.

“Even though I trained for 20 years as a professional footballer, I don’t think anything compares with the mental and physical trials of the Tour de France.

“I’ve watched the event over the years and even the professional riders struggle on some of the stages. To do it in the same number of days as the professionals will be a major test, but it is something that excites me more every day.”

The 40-year-old is hoping to raise a considerable amount of money for Leukaemia Research. He will also make a donation to Cure Leukaemia, a new Midlands charity which is raising funds for a leukaemia centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where Geoff was treated under the care of Professor Charles Craddock.

The innovative centre will provide much-needed information and support to the people of the Midlands, as well as becoming a centre for ground-breaking research.

“It’s a huge commitment, but I’m determined to do it and raise money to help fund the medical research that I believe saved my life,” says Geoff.

If you would like to support Geoff by making a pledge, you can either telephone Cure Leukaemia on 0121 452 5081, download a pledge form from http://www.cureleukaemia.co.uk or make an online donation at http://www.geoff-thomas.com

Photo/ Richard Stanton

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