England footballing legend Gary Lineker has given his support to this year’s GT15 challenge to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia – as plans were revealed for ‘Geoff Thomas Day’ during their epic cycling challenge on July 4th.
Thomas, who made 56 appearances in the Wolves midfield and scored eight goals, is leading a team of 18 amateur cyclists for his fifth and final Tour de France, a day before the professionals, from June 26 to July 18, and the team’s fundraising in pursuit of that total has now broken through the £250,000 barrier.
It is 28 years to the day since Thomas was set up by Lineker only to infamously fluff his attempted chip in what proved to be his ninth and final England appearance against France in a 2-0 victory at Wembley, but the Cure Leukaemia Patron has never shied away from talking about the miss, as well as pointing out his unbeaten record during his international career!
This year however, Geoff and his team of amateur cyclists are aiming to ensure they ‘hit’ the target this time by raising over £1m for Cure Leukaemia. The funds raised will be invested directly into the national Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) network allowing blood cancer patients, from an increased catchment area of over 20 million people, access to potentially life-saving treatments through clinical trials.
Today’s ‘infamous’ anniversary was chosen for Geoff to announce on talkSPORT that Saturday July 4th (which will be the 9th stage of the Tour de France route for Geoff and the team) will not only mark 15 years since Geoff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia but that it will also be ‘Geoff Thomas Day’.
Similar to the leader of the Tour de France, Geoff will lead the GT15 team wearing a special yellow jersey to symbolise his representing of all blood cancer patients across the world. The former Crystal Palace captain is urging the blood cancer community, football community and general public across the country to get involved and organise their own fundraising activities to support him and the team in their £1m fundraising goal.
A few months prior to the England match against France, Gary Lineker’s son George was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and this was one of the main reasons for the BBC Match of the Day presenter agreeing to help promote the Geoff Thomas Day campaign.
Lineker, a regular team-mate of Thomas at international level, said: “I still can’t believe Geoff managed to miss that chance against France, but football can be cruel in allowing moments like that to define a career. I remember Geoff as a talismanic midfielder and an incredibly tough opponent, and he has transferred those qualities into not only beating blood cancer himself, but also now in raising funds to help others.
“It is extraordinary what Geoff has achieved since going into remission 15 years ago. This will be his 7th Grand Tour and his final Tour de France and I really hope he and his team go beyond their £1m target for Cure Leukaemia. I think ‘Geoff Thomas Day’ is a great idea and I would urge football fans and the wider public to get involved to support Geoff and his team this year.
“It is widely known that my son George was diagnosed with blood cancer as a baby and I am forever grateful for the care he received nearly 30 years ago. George is alive and well and there have been phenomenal advances made in the treatment of blood cancer since then but there is still much more to be done. That is why I am happy to support Geoff, Cure Leukaemia and the TAP network to ensure more and more people survive this disease and progress continues towards eradicating this disease as soon as possible.”
Geoff, who received the Helen Rollason award at the 2005 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, is once again extremely grateful for the support he has already received as he and the GT15 continue their training in preparation for a considerable test of endurance.
He said: “It is humbling as ever that so many people are getting behind what we are doing this year, including my former team-mate Gary, who has hopefully forgiven me all these years later for making a mess of his impressive through ball!
“Each cyclist has their own £30,000 fundraising target to hit, to help us towards our overall aim of reaching £1million, but we don’t want to just hit the target we want to beat and surpass it to ensure more and more funds are raised to help patients.
“We are urging the general public to join us and help beat this target by doing their own fundraising event. Whether it’s a cycle ride or similar sporting challenge, a car wash, bake sale, walk, barbecue, any sort of event – it would be fantastic to create a real buzz around that day with fundraising and publicity. Any support of this kind would also be a huge boost to our team out in France as we approach the halfway point of the Tour.”
“It means anyone can get involved and play their part, however big or small, as it all makes a difference in terms of the overall total which will save the lives of leukaemia patients, just as mine was saved all those years ago.”
Geoff and his team will wear a special yellow jersey for this stage of the challenge supplied by the event’s kit sponsor Kalas and exclusive sponsorship opportunities are available for this special commemorative ‘Geoff Thomas Day’ cycling jersey.
The GT15 team’s most recent meeting took place at Birmingham’s Centre for Clinical Haematology, the hub of the 12 blood cancer centres across the UK which Cure Leukaemia is funding as part of the TAP network.
The cyclists were able to meet patients and hear from Cure Leukaemia co-founder, Professor Charlie Craddock CBE, giving them added motivation for their fundraising and training.
One of these patients, Andy Westwood from Bromsgrove, is right behind Geoff and the team. He said: “I urge people to support Geoff Thomas Day in whatever way they can. Meeting Geoff and the team has inspired me and my family in my battle with this disease and, as a keen cyclist myself, I am determined to get on my bike and do what I can from the saddle one day, perhaps even the Tour de France like Geoff, you never know!’