News: Pedal Club November Meeting

The Pedal Club’s November Meeting had three distinguished speakers for the after lunch discussion – Geoff Thomas, Cherie Pridham and Andy Cook – by Chris Lovibond

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News: Pedal Club November Meeting

The after lunch discussion had three distinguished speakers – Geoff Thomas, Cherie Pridham and Andy Cook. It took the form of a question an answer session chaired by Pedal Club member Sue Rogers (nee Fenwick). For the benefit of clarity each speaker is dealt with separately in this report.

Geoff Thomas, Cherie Pridham and Andy Cook

Geoff Thomas is a former England footballer who, within a year of retiring from the pro game, was diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia. He was one of the fortunate twenty percent who could receive a lifesaving transplant and, having experienced what seemed to be a miraculous recovery, his main purpose in life became an effort to help other sufferers by raising money for reseach.

When he was first found to be in remission in 2005 Lance Armstrong was still the untainted hero of cancer survival, so although Geoff had had no contact with the world of cycling and didn’t even possess a bike, the answer to ‘What more can I do?’ seemed to be charity cycling.

And this has proved to be a great success – helped by his personal profile as a recent international footballer he raised £150,000 in 2005 by riding the Tour de France route ahead of the race. In the years since then he has raised many millions more and is now working as an official partner with the Amaury Sports Organisation.

Geoff started this work as duty but the cycling aspect has now become a pleasure particularly, he says, because of the way the activity brings people together socially.

Cherie Pridham realised as an eleven year old South African that she had to be a racing cyclist. Unlike many with this dream, she succeeded, riding her first big international event (The Tour de l’Aude Feminin) at the age of nineteen in 1990, and continuing a successful pro career until a hit and run driver brought it to a close in 2006. Almost immediately she started managing pro teams in Britain and continued until her own team lost its sponsorship in the dark economic conditions of late 2020.

This appeared to be a serious, possibly terminal set back, but again Cherie managed to turn disaster into success by becoming the Director Sportif of Israel Start Up Nation, the first woman to hold such a position in a mens’ World Tour team. Success for that team at the Tirreno Adriatico no doubt helped her to gain the appointment as Director Sportif of the Lotto Soudal team at the beginning of the 2022 season.

She gave a vivid description of the pressure put on a DS in the team car when, in the Giro, there was an eighteen man break containing three of her riders – and that pressure resulted in success when Thomas de Gendt won stage eight! She said she now feels at home in this situation in stage races, but she has not done any of the single day classics: “You need a special temperament to drive a team car in Belgium” she told us, enigmatically.

Naturally, she is proud of her own achievement but, she said, it gives her greater pleasure to think that she has opened the door for other women in this field. In general she would like to be remembered as one part of a successful project.

Andy Cook is such an active figure in the club cycling scene that no introduction seems necessary, but not everyone will be aware that he is now a director of British Cycling as the members’ representative for the English regions. There can be no doubt that for club cyclists his heart is in the right place: “The people running our sport must understand our sport”. It is clear to Andy, as it is to all of us who are passionate about cyclesport, that bringing in business executives from other disciplines is never going to be a winner.

This weekend (19th/20th November) sees the British Cycling AGM and we can only hope that he succeeds in putting across the cyclists’ views.

Sue (Fenwick) Roberts (below) thanked the speakers and brought the session to a close at 4.30, by which time a collection among the members had raised over £300 for Geoff Thomas’s charity. The forty seven members and guests then faced the dark, wet streets of Kings Cross, two of them by bike.

by Chris Lovibond


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