A team of 18 amateur cyclists, led by ex-England footballer and blood cancer survivor Geoff Thomas, have today completed the full 2021 Tour de France route, one week ahead of the professionals. They have cycled over 3400km and battle extreme heat, battering winds, driving rain, fog, crashes, gruelling climbs, illness and fatigue to raise funds for national blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia. On Sunday 11th July the rode into Paris having surpassed their £1,000,000 target for the blood cancer charity.
Cure Leukaemia, which was announced as the first ever official Charity Partner of the Tour de France in the UK for the next three years, recorded a £1,700,000 fundraising shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and The Tour 21 team aims to help the charity address this shortfall in funding by completing all 3,400km of the world’s most famous and prestigious professional cycling event.
All funds raised by The Tour 21 team will be invested in the national Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) which has been solely funded by Cure Leukaemia since January 2020. TAP is a network of specialist research nurses at 12 blood cancer centres located in the UK’s biggest cities and a facilitatory hub based at the Centre for Clinical Haematology in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This network enables accelerated setup and delivery of potentially life-saving blood cancer clinical trials to run giving patients from a UK catchment area of over 20 million people access to treatments not currently available through standard care.
Cure Leukaemia Patron Geoff Thomas was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours just days before setting off for France. The former midfielder who captained Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final, made over 450 club appearances for Palace, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Crewe, Rochdale, Barnsley and Notts County and he was capped 9 times for England.
He retired in 2002 and was then diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in the summer of 2003 and given just 3 months to live. Thanks to treatment from Cure Leukaemia co-founder professor Charlie Craddock CBE and a transplant from his sister Kay, Geoff went into remission in early 2005 and then rode his first Tour de France challenge later that year.
Geoff has now completed the Tour de France on five occasions since beating blood cancer and is thrilled to have reached the £1,000,000 target: “Six weeks ago, it didn’t look like this event could take place and yet here we are in Paris having not only completed one of the toughest ever Tour de France routes but, more importantly, we have achieved our goal of raising £1,000,000 for the charity that helped save my life 18 years ago. I am immensely proud of the whole team including those who weren’t able to join us in France, the crew led by Andy Cook and everyone involved with the charity back in the UK. Without all of these people this event would not have happened.
“Raising £1,000,000 is hard and I would like to thank Farr Vintners and all our sponsors and everyone that has donated to get us to our target. We will enjoy this moment but there is still so much to do to ensure blood cancer is eradicated and I look forward to assembling our Tour 21 team for 2022 in the coming weeks. You never know, perhaps I do have one more Tour in me…. ”
Cure Leukaemia Chief Executive James McLaughlin said: “We suffered a £1,700,000 fundraising shortfall in 2020 and that is why it was so important that Geoff and The Tour 21 team could complete the event some of them have been training for since 2019. Ensuring this event could go ahead has been a herculean effort from so many people and I would like to thank everyone that has played a part in making The Tour 21 a success.
“To raise £1,000,000 is incredible and I want to thank all of the riders, their families, friends and colleagues because taking this event on requires enormous sacrifices long before the start. And big thank you as well to Andy Cook Cycling an all of the support crew who make the event run so smoothly, our fantastic photography and video teams and to Farr Vintners and all our sponsors. Every penny they have raised and continue to raise will go towards ensuring our network of specialist research nurses across the UK can continue giving blood cancer patients hope by giving them access to clinical trials.
“Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Geoff for his tireless efforts on and off the bike to ensure this event was a success. His qualities as a captain in football have transferred seamlessly into fundraising and he continues to inspire and drive this charity forwards. There is much work still to be done but, for now, I hope Geoff and the team enjoyed a very well-deserved celebration in Paris.” Geoff and the team have been receiving messages of good luck throughout the event and received a message of congratulations from comedian, actor and Crystal Palace fan Eddie Izzard.
And they received a congratulations message from 7-Grand Tour winner Chris Froome OBE: https://youtu.be/AUMrmBniX_8
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