The £1m bike ride

An intrepid team of cyclists from Birmingham set out to cycle the entire Tour de France course, one week ahead of the grand classic itself. After 3,400 punishing kilometres in 23 gruelling days, they arrived in Paris having raised more than £1million for Cure Leukaemia. Magnifique!!!

Cycling lovers need no introduction to the Tour de France, the most famous bike race in the world. But even the most ardent peloton follower may not know the Tour 21 quite so well. Tour 21 features a team of 18 amateur cyclists, led by local ex-England footballer and blood cancer survivor Geoff Thomas, who completed the full 2021 Tour de France route, one week ahead of the professionals. The cyclists pedaled more than 3,400 kilometres (2,100 miles) and battled extreme heat, battering winds, driving rain, fog, crashes, gruelling climbs, illness and fatigue to raise funds for Birmingham-based national blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia. When they finally rode into Paris, past the Arc de Triomphe and along the Champs Elysee they had raised more than £1million.

Cure Leukaemia, which is the first ever official charity partner of the Tour de France in the UK for the next three years, recorded a £1.7million fund-raising shortfall in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tour 21 team’s efforts will help the charity make up some of the missing funding.

A delighted, but exhausted, Geoff said: “Six weeks earlier, it didn’t look like this event could take place and yet here we are in Paris having not only completed one of the toughest ever Tour de France routes but, more importantly, we have achieved our goal of raising £1million for the charity that helped save my life 18 years ago.

“I am immensely proud of the whole team. I would also like to thank Farr Vintners and all our sponsors and everyone that has donated to get us to our target. We will enjoy this moment but there is still so much to do to ensure blood cancer is eradicated.”

Among the hundreds of congratulatory messages received by the team was one from four-time Tour de France winner, Britain’s Chris Froome who was part of the Tour de France peloton which raced the route a week later.

Photography by Joolze Dymond