On Thursday May 4th 2017, five amateur cyclists led by former Palace captain and blood cancer survivor, Geoff Thomas, will begin the Geoff Thomas Three Tours Challenge, a monumental challenge that will see the team cycle the three Grand Tours; the Giro D’Italia, Le Tour de France and La Vuelta a España consecutively, one day ahead of the professionals.
Only 39 professional cyclists and, to date, no amateur team have ever achieved this epic feat in the same calendar year. Each rider will cycle a total of 10,504km in just 63 days of cycling.
The driving force and purpose behind the team is their aim to help blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia raise an additional £1m in 2017 to fully fund the expansion of the globally significant Centre for Clinical Haematology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. This transformational development will double the Centre’s capacity for patients, clinical trials and specialist clinicians. Not only will the expanded Centre immediately save more lives but it will also hasten global progress towards finding effective treatments for all blood cancers within twenty-five years. The £3.2m project has already received over £2m from local government and Cure Leukaemia must raise the additional funds by 31st December 2017.
Geoff visited Selhurst Park last week to meet the first team squad before heading off on the challenge and explained a little more about the task ahead for him and the team.
"In 2015 we stayed one day ahead of the pros at the Tour de France and this time we are going to the next level to cover all three grand tours. We start with Italy this week, then onto France in July and complete the three legs in Spain during September. It covers nearly 10,000 miles so it is going to be tough challenge."
With only 39 pros having taken this on before the level of the challenge is immense and we asked Geoff to tell us how he has prepared to undertake such a major task.
“When I started preparing in February I picked up a knee injury so I haven't been able to do as much as I would have liked but over the last six weeks I have been out on the road doing as much as I can. Thankfully we are not racing and really for most of us it is a game of survival but because training time has been limited it has been a game of catch up for me. The first aim is to do Italy and then get back, rest up and go again for the Tour De France."
Geoff has once again been delighted at how the CPFC family have come together to play a major part in the fund raising of this challenge.
"I had a meeting with Steve Parish and Stephen Browett a couple of months ago and I was very emotional when they told me how much they would financially back the challenge and I am humbled at the level of support they have shown. I know how tough it is to get across the plans and ideas of what you are trying to achieve when you are fund raising, but they have both really got it and now with the Palace for Life Foundation on board it really does bring the Crystal Palace family together. I am very proud and honoured at the way that once again Crystal Palace Football Club have got behind me and supported my fund raising in the way that they have always done."
Stephen Browett, said: “Farr Vintners is delighted to be supporting Geoff Thomas in his Three Tours Challenge. Geoff was a legendary Captain of Crystal Palace Football Club and his continued fund-raising for Cure Leukaemia, including this epic cycling marathon, is inspirational to us all.”
Chairman Steve Parish said, “Geoff is very much part of the Crystal Palace family and we are proud of his determination and courage to beat his battle with blood cancer. We are delighted to be supporting him and have no doubt that he will complete this immense cycling challenge. Knowing so few professional cyclists have conquered this feat, this is going to be Geoff’s greatest sporting challenge.”
Further support from Crystal Palace FC, came from team manager Sam Allardyce, who met the former international at Selhurst and is a big admirer of his efforts. “I think he [Geoff] is mad. Geoff was a great player here at Palace, and we're in full support of his latest fundraising efforts for Cure Leukaemia.
"It requires a huge amount of determination to cycle such distances, raising money for a horrible disease and one that he has personally overcome. We wish him all the best in his fundraising efforts."
Joining Geoff in the team are businessman Doug McKinnon, wealth manager James Maltin, chef Hayden Groves and chef and motivational speaker Marcus Leach. These are men with full-time jobs and families who are finding time to train for one of the toughest endurance challenges any person can take on.
Whilst these five are taking on all three challenges there are opportunities available for keen cyclists to ride the Tour de France with Geoff and the team. There are also sponsorship packages available for companies to get involved and potentially ride sections and stages of the famous routes.