THE BLOG

Le Tour: One Day Ahead - Why Am I Doing This Again?

11/12/2014 16:57 GMT | Updated 10/02/2015 10:59 GMT
ASSOCIATED PRESS

There are some questions that people always seem to ask me; what did it feel like to lead your team out at the FA Cup Final? How are Palace going to get on this season? And, of course, what on earth were you trying to do here?

However, since I announced a couple of months ago that I was going to cycle to entire Tour de France again, I find I'm only ever asked one question - why are you putting yourself through this again!? So here is my attempt to answer this.

First of all I suppose I should provide a bit of background. For those who don't follow football, or those who are too young to remember, I used to play a bit. I was captain of Crystal Palace during what was arguably the club's most successful time. We reached the 1990 FA Cup Final only to be beaten by Manchester United, and finished third in the First Division the following season - Palace's highest ever finish. I was also lucky enough to represent my country and won nine England caps.

It is perhaps what happened after I finished playing that I am best known for however. Just one year after hanging up my boots I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, and was at one stage given just three months to live. Thankfully due to innovative treatment from Professor Charlie Craddock and a bone marrow transplant from my wonderful sister I was able to beat off the disease.

Once in remission I was determined to mark this in some way. During my treatment I had been greatly inspired by Lance Armstrong and decided to follow his tyre tracks and ride all 21 stages of that year's Tour de France. The inspiration I got from Lance obviously came before recent revelations have put an asterisk beside his achievements. I do not believe that we should wipe out all of Lance's achievements along with his yellow jerseys however. He provided inspiration to so many people fighting this horrific disease called cancer, myself very much included, and this should not be discounted.

So, I took on this huge challenge despite having very little cycling experience - I had to borrow a bike for the announcement photo shoot as I didn't even own one yet! Also, having just been through chemotherapy, I was not in my best physical shape (to put it lightly!). However, along with a brilliant team, I did it. We got through the very long days, the impossibly steep climbs and a couple of navigational hiccups, to eventually roll into Paris. It gave me an immense sense of achievement, but more importantly raised lots of money to help fight Leukaemia.

Which brings me to what we're doing now. The 2015 Tour de France will mark the 10th anniversary of my ride, and I have decided to do it all over again. Along with a team of 20 other riders we will ride every mile and tackle of every climb of the 2015 route just one day ahead of the main peloton. The experience will be as close as possible to riding for a real pro team on the Tour.

This finally brings me back to the question I mentioned at the start of this blog - why are you doing this again Geoff? Why are you putting yourself through the months of training, a lot during the middle of our beloved British winter? Why do you want to experience the mental and physical torture of getting back on your bike when your whole body is screaming not to?

There are a few answers to these questions, but the simplest and easiest is this: We're doing it to raise £1million for Cure Leukaemia.

Cure Leukaemia is the charity founded by my old doctor Professor Charlie Craddock, and it is at the cutting edge of the brilliant work being done to find a way of beating Leukaemia. Funding will enable the expansion of the haematology centre of excellence which will in turn give more space for more employment of clinical research nurses. This will crucially result in the ability to increase the number of clinical trials taking place. This will help to deliver new hope to thousands diagnosed with blood cancer.

My team is currently taking shape, but there are still places available to join me. If you are interested in finding out more about this once in a lifetime opportunity please visit beforethetour.com.