Tom Simpson, born Haswell (County Durham), on November the 30th 1937 as a son of a mineworker. Tom was born as the youngest of the six children in total, having four sisters and a brother, Harry. Tom Simpson would later die on the steep slopes of the Mont-Ventoux on July the 13th, 1967.
Tom spends the majority of his time as a child in the region he was born. At the age of 16, in 1953, he takes his first steps into road cycling. Besides participating in road cycling he also follows a study to become a drafter and only a year after his debut in the sport of road cycling he becomes the youth champion of his country.
Tom is sent to the Olympic Games of Melbourne in 1956 at the mere age of 19. He would end up winning a bronze medal at the team pursuit discipline on the track. Because of the lack of interest in professional cycling in his home country, Tom decides to move to Saint-Brieuc, France. Tom has its first big achievement on the road only a few years after his thirth place on the track in Melbourne. Tom ends up fourth at the world championship road cycling in 1959 which is held in Zandvoort, the Netherlands.
Tom meets his later wife Helen in Saint-Brieuc. She studies foreign languages and works in France as a nurse. One day Helen reads an article about a young English man, a cyclist, in a newspaper. Tom is staying at a local butcher at that time and gets into contact with Helen. The Simpsons would later move to the Panterschipstraat in Gent then to de Hoge Kouterstraat in Mariakerke and later to a luxurious villa located at de Vijverstraat, also in Mariakerke. At the time of the dramatic accident on the Mont-Ventoux the villa was still empty. Helen and the children Jane and Joanne were staying at their holiday home in Pianotoli, Corsica, that was still being build at that time.
His victories in many big road cycling races earns Tom a big name and fame in the English cycling community as well as on the mainland, where he has nothing but friends amongst the other professional cyclists. His name had become a synonym for will-power, perseverance and a good sense of humor. Tom wins his first big race in 1961, the Tour des Flandres. Afterwards he would celebrate in numerous other big races. The absolute crowning glory of Tom’s career is his victory in San Sebastian during the 1965’s world championship on the road where he beats Rudi Altig in a spectacular finale. Tom is crowned “sportsman of the year” in Great-Britain in the same year.
Disaster strikes after becoming champion of the world. Tom breaks his leg whilst skiing, during his stay in Saint Gervais where he spends his holiday in the snow and he has to spend the early season revalidating from his injury. Disaster strikes again in the Tour de France of 1966. Tom hits the tarmac twice during the Alps-stage that included the Col du Galibier and suffers a deep cut to his right arm, no longer being able to keep a grip of his handlebars. He exits the Tour in an ambulance.
The wildest stories have been written about that doomed 13th stage of the 1967 Tour de France across the Mont-Ventoux. Especially the story about Tom enjoying a few glasses of cognac in a bar in Bedoin – just before the start of the climb – is named a lot. The real story is that Tom was one of the first to start the long climb to the top and was one of the last that had to drop from the group of favorites, only a few kilometers away from the top. Slaloming across the road because of extreme fatigue, Tom gets caught up by one after another. Tom finally collapses to the ground. He is put back on his bike but only several meters later Tom’s agony comes to an end. Help arrives immediately but Tom passes away at 17:40 in the hospital of Avignon, where he was brought to by helicopter. Barry Hoban – a teammate of Tom – is allowed to win the next stage to Sète, as a homage to Tom. Tom’s funeral takes place in Harworth, where a small museum is opened to honor his legacy.
A monument is revealed in 1968, at the same place where Tom rode his last and fatal meters on his bike. Both Barry Hoban and Helen Simpson attend the disclosure ceremony. Helen marries Barry Hoban a year later and together they get daughter Daniella as their first child. A replica of the Ventoux-monument is unveiled in Harworth at August the 12th, 2001.
The question arises if Tom could have been saved, would professional help have arrived in time. Equipment to monitor and stimulate the heart was not present. Tom received mouth to mouth resuscitation in an attempt to get him breathing again. However, the position of his head was pointed uphill, would this have been downhill then Tom would probably have had a better chance of surviving.
Everyone who “knows” Tom, knows that he was a fighter pur sang. He has always believed that he had a chance to win the Tour de France once. And that strong will to succeed, in combination with the burning sun and total fatigue became fatal to Tom that day. Tom Simpsons name is directly associated with doping nowadays because traces of amphetamines were found in his blood. Other nonsense, not in the least place written by so-called cycling-journalists, have been published as well. Stories about his incredible reputation as a professional cyclist and the lack of medical assistance at that time are barely written about.