A sell-out crowd helped to raise over £3,000 for the Geoff Thomas Foundation at the inaugural ‘Out of the Saddle’ night hosted by Russell and Dean Downing at the Sitwell Golf Club, Rotherham, on Saturday night.
All 150 tickets were sold out before the event aimed at raising funds for the cancer charity created by ex-Crystal Palace and England footballer Geoff Thomas, who was present throughout the evening.
Along with Dean and Russell Downing, other cycling stars present included Malcolm Elliott, Chris Walker, Ben Swift, Adam Blythe, Pete Williams, Tom Murray and James Sampson.
Thomas himself is a recent convert to cycling, having taken it up to raise awareness and funds for his cancer care foundation since having survived leukaemia in 2004. He has ridden, amongst other challenges, the whole of the Tour de France routes in 2005 and 2007.
Eurosport commentator David Harmon presented the evening’s events and kicked off with interviews with two young local stars, Adam Blythe and Ben Swift. Newly-signed pro Blythe was looking forward to 2010 with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, renamed from Silence-Lotto where he had ended 2009 riding alongside new world champion Cadel Evans and end of season meister Philippe Gilbert in the final semi-classics in Italy.
Swift was quizzed about the recent rumours of a move from his current Russian Katusha team to the new Team Sky squad for 2010 and indicated that a move in that direction was still hopefully not out of the question. This was received by a roar of approval by his local support gathered in the room. Whatever happens, Blythe and Swift will no doubt meet head-to-head over the coming season which provoked some friendly banter between the two as to who would out do who.
Dean and Russell were then brought on to the stage to reflect on their seasons. The brothers have had a successful year on the road with Dean (Rapha Condor) having secured the National Circuit Series title and Russell (CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta) notably taking the Premier Calendar Series and the Tour of Ireland win, which helped him secure a ride with Team Sky for 2010.
The following auction included a signed Alberto Contador jersey, Team SaxoBank jersey, Tour of Britain king of the mountains jersey signed by Geraint Thomas, Rapha Condor kit and a signed and framed Tour of Ireland CandiTV Marshalls Pasta team poster.
It was a rare signed postcard of the 1965 world road race champion Tom Simpson who lived and grew up in nearby Harworth, north Nottinghamshire, raised the most money. The framed card donated by Simpson’s nephew Chris Sidwells realised £600, adding to the total of £3,250 raised on the night. It was fitting that the Simpson item was bought by a current local cycling legend Malcolm Elliott.
Adam Blythe, Dean Downing, Russell Downing and Ben Swift
David Harmon with Russell Downing and Geoff Thomas
Rapha-Condor kit auction
Former Milk Race winners Chris Walker and Malcolm Elliott
Packed to the rafters: Sitwell Golf Club
Geoff Thomas Foundation