Former Crystal Palace and England footballer Geoff Thomas will be riding next month’s London to Paris ride as part of a 15-man team raising money for his Geoff Thomas Foundation cancer charity – and joining him will be the organisation’s chairman, and fellow cancer survivor, Graham Hampson Silk.
Also riding in the team for the three-day, 550km ride, which takes place from june 24-26, will be Thomas’s former Crystal Palace team-mate, John Salako. Other celebrities taking part in the event are Beijing Individual Pursuit gold medallist Rebecca Romero, the legendary Irish cyclist Stephen Roche, former England rugby captain Will Carling and Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell.
As Thomas explains, he and Hampson Silk met when he counselled Hampson Silk in his battle against leukaemia. “Graham and I were both treated by Professor Charlie Craddock in Birmingham. I was a bit further down the road when Charlie asked if I could talk Graham through my experience.”
He continues: “We met in the waiting room at the hospital and Graham and I shared the toughest battle of our lives – our fight against cancer. That experience cemented our friendship and determination to campaign for better treatment for leukaemia patients.”
While Thomas beat leukaemia with the help of a stem-cell transplant from his sister, Hampson Silk was unable to benefit from transplant therapy and instead won his battle thanks to a new drug. “I was given three years to live which was absolutely devastating,” he says. “My brother was not a close enough match for me to have a transplant and I thought I was going to die.”
Hampson Silk had lost his parents to a plane crash as they returned from his 21st birthday party, which as a parent himself put his life-threatening disease into stark relief. “I knew the heartbreak of losing my parents and when I was diagnosed with leukaemia I had three very young children,” he explains. “The thought of leaving them was unbearable.”
He was thrown a lifeline through a new drug, however. “I was told that I couldn’t have a transplant and that my only hope was a new experimental drug called Glivec. I was able to get onto a trial of that drug and it saved my life,” says Hampson Silk.
Subsequently, he joined the Geoff Thomas Foundation as its chairman. “Geoff and I have become great friends and we have shared some astonishing times,” he says. “We are now determined to campaign for more drugs trials for leukaemia patients. This country spends hundreds of millions of pounds on research and if we could get the new drugs to patients quickly, more people would have the same chance of survival that I had.”
He continues: “We need to raise £10 million to fund a network of blood cancer trials centres that will make a real difference to thousands of people with blood cancer.”
Thomas added: “It’ll be a tough road to Paris but Graham and I are made of strong stuff. We know that every mile ridden by Team GTF will be helping leukaemia patients who face the same hard road that we have travelled ourselves.”
Thomas and Hampson Silk will be part of a 15-strong Geoff Thomas Foundation team to ride The L2P which also includes Sky commentator and ex-Crystal Palace footballer, John Salako.
People wishing to support their efforts can donate at www.justgiving.com/geoffthomas-grahamsilk.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.