Tom Simpson’s 50th anniversary

It’s a year since the Wheelers rode up Mt Ventoux and visited Tom Simpson’s memorial. We laid a simple but fitting piece of Cornish stone with a plaque at the top of the steps amongst the many water bottles and other mementoes riders leave. 

The wind and the winter do surprising damage to the steps and the memorial. It’s not called “ventoux” for nothing. This winter was particularly harsh. But thanks to a combination of Belgian firms and bike team sponsors with the Simpson family, a fine set of polished granite steps has been laid.

On 13th July 2017 it was 50 years to the day that Tom Simpson tragically died on the Ventoux during stage 13 of the 1967 Tour de France. He was 29. He was the first Briton to wear the Tour leader’s yellow jersey in 1962. He was the first Briton to become world champion on the road in 1965. His other wins included the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Bordeaux-Paris, the Tour of Lombardy and Paris-Nice. In those days the prospect of a British winner of the Tour de France seemed unattainable. Simpson was the man who put British cycling on the European map. Despite the controversy surrounding his death he remains an iconic hero not only to many British cycling fans but also in Belgium where he lived with his young family.
Some 400 cyclists gathered on 13th July in Bédoin to ride up to the summit before gathering at the memorial. Many wore Peugeot team jerseys, some rode steel frames in the Peugeot colours with original chainsets and some with Simpson’s frame number 49. One of his daughters, Joanne, rode in her father’s wheel tracks and together with Tom’s widow, Helen, paid tribute very movingly to her father before thanking the Belgians and the British fans for their continuing support. Riders from his club, Harworth & District CC, unveiled two anniversary posters. The mayor of Bédoin cut the ribbon to unveil the new steps. Tom’s former team mate, Barry Hoban, was present and would no doubt have ridden up but for an impending knee operation. When I introduced him to Clare as a winner of 8 stages of the Tour and one of the top sprinters he was keen to add that he could a climb a bit too, and descend!


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