GEOFF Thomas heads into the second, punishing week of his ‘Le Tour – One Day Ahead (LTODA)’ challenge boosted by the news his fundraising efforts for Cure Leukaemia have topped £600,000.
The LTODA riders had clocked 939 miles in the saddle when completing the tenth – and first mountain – stage in La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Monday, having started their superhuman challenge in Utrecht, Holland, on July 3.
The first week proved eventful, with two cyclists – Helen Russell from Bromsgrove and James Maltin of Wiltshire – crashing on stages Two and Five respectively and requiring stitches.
The team have now headed south to Lourdes for this week’s battle with the Pyrenees and today are tackling Stage 11’s torturous 187km route from Pau-Cauterets, including the iconic Tourmalet climb.
Geoff is aiming to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia, the blood cancer charity he owes his life to and is Patron of, through two major cycling events this summer – June’s London 2 Paris event and LTODA.
The riders – Helen, 39, from Bromsgrove, James, 39, of Wiltshire, Birmingham-based duo Melissa Brand, 35, and Stephen Jones, 52, Doug McKinnon, 55, of Brighton, Hayden Groves, 40, from Hertfordshire, Guildford-based Ciaran Doran, 49, Trevor Clarke, 49, from Rugby, Simon Gueller, 50, from Yorkshire, and Dom Goggins, 30, of Manchester – are aiming to raise £50,000 each.
Geoff claims the news their collective fundraising efforts have risen above the £600,000 mark is a massive fillip as they tackle the mountains.
“I mentioned on social media the other day that we’ve been through a few really tough days, covering a lot of miles,” he said.
“Helen’s injury was really nasty and required ten stitches. James also needed stitches and we mustn’t forget that Simon suffered a collapsed lung and broken ribs just three weeks before the challenge started.
The longest stage of the tour last Monday over cobbles, and the horrible weather on the way to Le Havre on Wednesday, took a lot out of us. It was torturous, and taxing both physically and mentally. Concentration levels had to be extremely high to keep everyone safe.
Yesterday, we overcame our first mountain stage. It was painful but a great achievement by the team. It’s at the end of those tough rides that you start looking at your JustGiving pages. Seeing donations coming in, and getting messages of support on social media, really does lift the riders.
So news that we’ve topped £600,000 has given all of us a tremendous boost.”
Geoff is keeping his fingers crossed the donations continue to pour in as the LTODA riders push themselves to the absolute limit in the Pyrenees this week and Alps next week, before arriving at the finishing line in Paris on Saturday week.
To inspire them to complete this superhuman challenge, the cyclists were sent video messages of support from blood cancer patients they recently visited at the Centre for Clinical Haematology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, which they watched on the team coach before Stage Ten on Monday.
“As I keep saying, it’s push, push, push now on the fundraising side,” added Geoff.
“We have to keep promoting the message of why we’re doing this challenge. It’s all about raising money to help Professor Charlie Craddock and his fantastic doctors and nurses save the lives of more patients who are diagnosed with blood cancer, both today and in the future.
Their work really is making a difference and will hopefully lead to a cure being found for all blood cancers. The video messages were a nice surprise for the team. Many of them, including myself, got quite emotional. They have made us even more motivated for the final two weeks.
We worked increasingly well as a team last week. And team-work is going to be even more important this week. We have one or two riders who probably don’t want to admit that they’re struggling with the physical exertion.
It’s up to the other guys to realise this and help them, like they did last week, by putting themselves at the sharp end of the peloton and protecting them from strength-sapping head and crosswinds. We need to help each other get to the end of each stage before regrouping again.
The first week was about getting our legs in decent shape for all the climbing we’re going to have to do in the mountains. Everyone’s in good spirits. The guys are nervous but also excited.”
Stage Two on July 4, from Utrecht to Zeeland, was exactly 12 years since Geoff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia and given just three months to live.
But treatment from Professor Craddock, and a stem cell transplant from the ex-Crystal Palace midfielder’s sister, Kay, saw him enter remission in January 2005.
Support from the football community:
Geoff has been kindly supported by the football community over the last few months and most recently, Manchester United, Everton and the FA have kindly donated signed football shirts to be auctioned off in order to raise funds.
To bid on the shirt of your choice, follow the links below:
How you can donate to each rider:
Geoff Thomas - https://www.justgiving.com/Geoff-Thomas-2015/
James Maltin - https://www.justgiving.com/JamesMaltin/
Doug McKinnon - https://www.justgiving.com/Doug-McKinnon/
Helen Russell - https://www.justgiving.com/HelenRussell-LeTour/
Trevor Clarke - https://www.justgiving.com/TrevorClarke1/
Hayden Groves - https://www.justgiving.com/Hayden-Groves3/
Stephen Jones - http://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Jones47
Simon Gueller - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/boxtree
Ciaran Doran - https://mydonate.bt.com/teams/ciaranbeforethetour
Dom Goggins - https://www.justgiving.com/Dom-Goggins/
WATCH: Messages for the Le Tour - One Day Ahead team