In 2003 Geoff Thomas was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and was given less than three months to live. Following treatment from Cure Leukaemia co-founder Professor Charlie Craddock, he has been in remission since January 2005. I was diagnosed in 2008 and received a very different treatment path, also from Professor Craddock. Geoff received a transplant and I take the drugs, we both understand how lucky we are to still be here.

I’m a football fan, so at first it was a thrill to meet Geoff. As the time has passed my admiration for him as a man and as an incredible charity fundraiser has grown. I’m blessed to know him, I love catching up with him, we put the world to rights and I’ve watched with pride as his Le Tour vision has taken shape.

CML survivors Geoff Thomas and Kris Griffin

Geoff Thomas and Kris Griffin

To celebrate being 10 years in remission his aim is to raise a huge £1million for Cure Leukaemia after riding ‘Le Tour – One Day Ahead’ and London 2 Paris. The £1million raised will go towards boosting the life-saving work at the Centre for Clinical Haematology at the QE Hospital – where he and I were treated by Professor Craddock. The money will increase the centres ability to deliver pioneering treatments for blood cancer patients at this centre of excellence in Birmingham.

So, last month Geoff cycled all twenty-one stages of the Tour de France, just one day ahead of Le Tour 2015. Along with a closed group of twenty participants, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to complete one of the toughest physical challenges around.

Le Tour – One Day Ahead set off from Utrecht, Holland, on July 3 and since then each cyclist burned around 95,000 calories and climbed 40,000 metres in pedalling almost 2,100 miles. The team had to contend with 40-plus degree heat, wall-like ascents and frightening mountain-top thunderstorms in riding an average of 110 miles a day.

Geoff was joined by Birmingham-based duo Melissa Brand, aged 35, and Stephen Jones, 53, James Maltin, 39, of Wiltshire, Doug McKinnon, 55, from Brighton, Hayden Groves, 41, of Hertfordshire, Guildford-based Ciaran Doran, 49, Trevor Clarke, 49, from Rugby, Simon Gueller, 50, from Yorkshire, Dom Goggins, 30, of Manchester, and Helen Russell, 39, from Bromsgrove in riding the punishing Tour de France route, cycling each of the 21 stages a day before the professionals.

Helen and James required stitches after crashes during an eventful first week while Simon took on Le Tour just three weeks after suffering a collapsed lung and broken ribs and Doug had ongoing knee problems. The support staff were also kept busy treating dehydration, saddle sores, sickness and blisters to keep the riders on their bikes as they were pushed to the limit.

The team’s superhuman efforts have pushed Geoff’s fundraising total for Cure Leukaemia – the blood cancer charity he is Patron of and owes his life to – past the £650,000 mark. Le Tour – One Day Ahead followed hot on the heels of Geoff’s other major cycling challenge this summer, London 2 Paris. Both are flagship events in his bid to raise £2million for Cure Leukaemia inside two years.

A slightly controversial decision to ride two of the stages with former pr-cyclist Lance Armstrong has also been vindicated. Armstrong played a critical role in Geoff’s leukaemia battle, with the cyclist having beaten testicular cancer. Geoff was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life and inspired Geoff to make the 2005 charity ride along the route of the Tour de France. Whilst not condoning his actions there has to come a point when we put the knives down and give people an opportunity to earn forgiveness. Armstrong raised over $500million dollars for his own charity and if his current actions mean that he is bringing publicity and donations to Le Tour then I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not a matter of principle, this one’s a matter of saving the lives of leukaemia patients and people like, UCI President, Brian Cookson could probably do with reminding themselves of that.

Former England footballer Geoff Thomas before setting off on London 2 Paris.

We’re raised over £650,000 now and have set some really good foundations for next year and reaching that overall £2million target. London 2 Paris is only going to grow for Cure Leukaemia and Le Tour – One Day Ahead has gone worldwide. We’ve had so many people enquire about next year’s event that we might need a double-decker bus to fit the team in! Lance’s involvement has been central to that. It allowed us to put our message onto the world stage. People are more aware of what we’re trying to do and it’s up to me now to build on the foundations and raise a lot more awareness and money over the next five or ten years.

For the record, Geoff did his very best to persuade me to join him, he was serious too, he always is when it comes down to fundraising. In my current state of fitness and aversion to bikes I had to decline. I explained that I’m more suited to the advocacy side of our work but he wasn’t having any of it. Can I see myself cycling 2,200 miles? No, but you never say never. And if anyone were to persuade me if would be Geoff.

Please sponsor Geoff, not only is his achievement an incredible one but the money is going to such a great cause, it actually makes me emotional thinking about it. You simply don’t realise how lucky you are until you sit in a cancer clinic, looking around, waiting and realising that much of it is built on charitable donations from amazing people. Please donate…

To sponsor Geoff, visit: www.justgiving.com/Geoff-Thomas-2015

To register your interest for Le Tour – One Day Ahead 2016 visit: www.beforethetour.com

Cure Leukaemia was established in 2003 to allow patients with blood cancer in our region to access the remarkably effective new treatments which were then becoming available. To find out more please visit: www.cureleukaemia.co.uk

Le Tour 2015 finish line

The ex-England footballer and his team of ten amateur cyclists brought their brutal 3,360km ride to an end when they crossed the finish line under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on Saturday afternoon, via the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees.