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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Thomas takes on Le Tour
Geoff Thomas (left) captained Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup final
Thomas (left) captained Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup final
Months after fighting off leukaemia, former England international Geoff Thomas is ready for a new challenge.

This summer, Thomas will cycle the gruelling Tour de France route - an astonishing 3484km in just 21 days - to raise money for leukaemia charities.

Thomas was diagnosed with the life-threatening chronic myeloid leukaemia in July 2003 and underwent a bone marrow transplant in January 2004.

He has been in remission since January, although it will be another five years before he knows for certain whether the illness has left his system for good.

And after being inspired by six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's battle with testicular cancer, Thomas has persuaded doctors to allow him to take on arguably the most physically demanding endurance test in sport.

"Two weeks after I was diagnosed a friend of mine sent me Lance Armstrong's autobiography which is about his battle against cancer," the former England and Crystal Palace midfielder told Football Focus.

GEOFF THOMAS FACTFILE
Born: 5 August 1964
Height: 5 ft 10 in
England caps: 9
Clubs: Littleborough, Rochdale, Crewe, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, Notts County, Crewe
Club appearances: 462 (66 goals)

"It was inspirational, and it got me in a great frame of mind for my own personal battle.

"After my treatment I really felt impelled to repay an awful lot of people for what they've done for me. And this is a great opportunity to do that."

Thomas won nine England caps under Graham Taylor in the 1990s.

He started his career at non-league Littleborough and played at Rochdale and Crewe before joining Crystal Palace in 1987.

He enjoyed his greatest success during his six-year spell with the London club and captained the Palace side which reached the FA Cup final in 1990.

After leaving the Eagles he joined Wolves but made only 53 appearances in an injury-hit four years in the Midlands before moving on to Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, Notts County and finally Crewe, where he retired in 2005.

This is probably the hardest thing anyone could ever do in their lives...it's around a marathon a day for three weeks
Paul Bailey, Thomas' personal cycling coach

But despite a career as an elite sportsman, nothing could have prepared Thomas for the challenge of Le Tour.

"It's a massive feat," acknowledges Thomas.

"As a footballer there is a certain amount of skill involved, which you can get by on in 90 minutes. But in cycling it's about sheer lungs and heart really.

"I've not really thought about the route, because at this stage that's pretty daunting. It's an average of about 160km a day, for 21 days. The longest part is about 241km.

"So many people have donated money already, and I think I owe it to them to prepare properly.

"One reason for doing it is to raise awareness and to raise as many funds for leukaemia research as possible.

"But another reason is for myself personally.

"I've been through a battle for the past two years and I've reached the age of 40, midlife crisis stage!

"If I can get my life back on track, get my fitness back and achieve something like this, it would be a fantastic start to a new life for myself."

For more information, visit Geoff Thomas' website at:




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Interview: Former England international Geoff Thomas



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