Graham Poll is certainly more famous for his black jersey than his lycra - but the former referee dug deep to hit top gear for charity in a gruelling fundraising challenge.
Graham, 50, cycled 1,000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats over the space of two weeks alongside old pal Roy Rance to raise money for The Royal Marsden – a world-leading cancer centre.
The duo took on the challenge in support of Sadie France – the long-term girlfriend of Roy’s son Jason – who is battling ovarian cancer.
Last year Sadie, at just 22 years of age, was diagnosed with the disease. Royal Marsden’s pioneering research has given her real hope – but there is still a massive battle for her.
Determined to their bit, Graham and Roy set off from Cornwall on Sunday, June 1 and cycled more than 70 miles each day before arriving at the very top of Scotland on Saturday, June 14 in time to see England’s opening World Cup match against Italy.
And Graham says that, despite being pushed to his physical limits, he was determined to make it to the finishing line for such a worthwhile cause.
“The highlight of the challenge was meeting people up and down the country who were all so nice and couldn’t have done more to support us and restore ones’ faith in the UK,” said Graham. “Cycling across Dartmoor, through the Lake District and the area around Glen Coe were the most scenic areas.
“The hills in Cornwall and one going out of Wells spring to mind as the hardest parts, but perhaps it was just the amount of time spent in the saddle which tested me most.
“The love and support of family and friends, as well as the incredibly generous sponsors, really kept us going.”
Graham and Roy have so far raised more than £15,000 through the challenge and Graham said: “I’d like to say a massive thank you for everyone’s generosity, which has been overwhelming.
“In 2008 I raised £13,000 for Iain Rennie Hospice at Home and to surpass that this time is wonderful.”
Graham says that Team Sadie has one clear message to get across through this, and other fundraising challenges.
“If a young person has symptoms then they must make sure they get themselves checked out,” he said.
“That is the important message and that is what Sadie really wants to put across.”
And Graham is now setting his sights on his next fundraising venture.
He said: “Next year is the 30th anniversary for Iain Rennie/Grove House, which I am a patron of, and I am leading a cycling challenge to raise funds and celebrate.”
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