Lance Armstrong is set to ride some of the Tour de France route this year to help raise money for the Cure Leukaemia charity. He has been invited by former footballer Geoff Thomas who is aiming to raise more than £1 million.
Former English international Thomas is cycling the entire route of this summer’s Tour de France one day ahead of the professional peloton and he has spoken to The Daily Mail about how he has been in contact with the Texan.
Thomas was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia back in 2003, and says that Armstrong’s story inspired him. He first rode the Tour de France route in 2005, raising £250,000 to fund the first research nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he had been treated.
He admits his disappointment that Armstrong had been doping to win his Tours de France though as he says, “As a sportsman I was angry that it was all a lie. Doping is wrong. But in the context of the illness, and the connection I had as someone who had also survived cancer, the sport was kind of irrelevant. All that ever really mattered to me was his attitude towards the disease; the desire to fight it and the desire to make a difference when he got better.”
“I’m not here to defend Lance, and I’m certainly not trying to present him as a victim. He has made his mistakes and now he’s paying the price. But none of that actually concerns me. This isn’t about cycling or doping or the UCI. This is about cancer and saving lives.’
Regarding meeting Armstrong, Thomas says, “I wanted to get a better understanding of who he is, as a man. As soon as you talk to him about cancer it’s obvious he wants to get back and help. I sensed a lot of pain there, that the door was closed on him by Livestrong. Because that’s where he wants to get back to. But I have a vehicle that can get him involved again now. And after what he did for me 12 years ago I’d like to do that. I’m not a religious person but I believe in right and wrong and I also believe in forgiveness.”
When Thomas asked Armstrong if he would join him for a couple of the stages, his response was “Of course I will, I have to say I’m humbled you’ve made the effort to come all this way.”
As to whether Thomas feels that he may be being manipulated by Armstrong, he says, “If anything I’m using Lance here. I’ve pursued him. I’ve flown to Texas to see him. I’ve persuaded him to get involved again. I believe bringing him back into the world of fighting cancer can only be good. And if I’m wrong at least I’ve tried. But I’m not sticking my neck on the line here on a whim. I’ve been thinking about this for a year.”