PAT MURPHY: Fighting Thomas Shows True Grit

The Birmingham Post (England), March 29, 2005 | Go to article overview
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PAT MURPHY: Fighting Thomas Shows True Grit


Byline: PAT MURPHY

As a professional footballer, Geoff Thomas never shirked a challenge. He's remained consistent since, as he fights leukaemia. Now, with more than four years of remission ahead of him, Geoff is trying to ease the suffering of those also suffering from the dreaded disease.

And he's doing it the hard way. He's set to cycle every mile of the Tour de France route in the summer, one of the most arduous sporting challenges in the world. And in doing so, he'll be following the inspirational example of his sporting hero, Lance Armstrong, who, in beating testicular cancer, continued winning the Tour de France an amazing six times.

Geoff, who played with distinction for Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest and for England, vividly remembers the day when Armstrong influenced his life. It was when he was coming to terms with the realisation that, at the age of 39, his life might be drawing to a close early and cruelly.

He was at his home in a Worcestershire village, still in shock at the leukaemia diagnosis, when a book was delivered. It was from a friend who felt Geoff needed some guidance in battling the disease. It was called It's Not About the Bike, the story of how Lance Armstrong fought against his own bleak diagnosis. Geoff read it in one sitting that day.

Now he plans to start the Tour de France a week earlier than the official competitors and finish the 2,400-mile course in just over threeweeks. Some days he and his team will have to cycle around 140 miles and the next day another 150 miles. They realise that it'll take almost double the hours per day as Armstrong and the other superbly fit cyclists, but the challenge is there and it won't be shirked.

Geoff hopes to raise around pounds 200,000 for Leukaemia Research and that drive sustains him as he fits in 300 miles a week in training.

``It's sore on the backside, but I'm getting used to it. I did four hours to Stratford and back the other day and got lost.

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