Former professional referee Graham Poll has taken charge of some of the biggest games in football – but he will be testing himself on a bike rather than the pitch this summer.
Graham, 50, will be cycling 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 have taken on the challenge in support of Sadie France – the long-term girlfriend of Roy’s son Jason – who is battling ovarian cancer.
Graham and Roy will set off from Cornwall on Sunday, June 1 and cycle 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.
“Training is going well – I’ve done about 12,000 miles so far and I’ve got another 1,000 planned for the next four weeks,” said Graham, who lives in Tring.
“Someone asked me if I’m as fit now as I was when I was a referee and I think I am, but it’s a different type of fitness.”
Last year Sadie, at just 22 years of age, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She was referred to The Royal Marsden whose pioneering research has given her real hope – but there is still a massive battle for her.
Team Sadie is aiming to raise as much money as possible to thank the hospital for what they’ve already done for Sadie, and to help them find a cure for many forms of cancer.
“Sadie has been very poorly but she’s a fighter and is trying to keep as upbeat as she can,” said Graham.
“Whenever we are suffering or struggling with the cycling, we just have to remember it’s nothing in comparison to what Sadie and her family are going through. That’s the driving factor.”
Sadie and Jason met at the University of Winchester, before moving to Australia for six months in November 2012 after graduating because Jason was invited to play cricket.
That is when Sadie first began to experience bowel changes and bad stomach cramps. She put it down to being in a different country and a change in drinking and eating habits.
When Sadie came home her symptoms got worse and, between May and September 2013, she went to the doctors eight times – but her GP dismissed Sadie’s symptoms as constipation and period pain.
She then saw another doctor and demanded to go to hospital where she was later diagnosed with cancer.
“Our cycling challenge is going to be hard, but we wanted to show just how hard Sadie’s battle is,” said Graham.
“From a running point of view, the marathon is the thing to do and I have done one of those so this is the cycling equivalent – if not even harder.
“We want people to see that we are really doing something worth donating for.”
Graham says that Team Sadie has one clear message to get across through this, and other various 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.”
To make a donation towards Graham and Roy’s £10,000 target, please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/SadieRoyGraham