Welcome to this website dedicated to the life of Tom Simpson. On this website you will find a biography, a scrapbook with articles and photos about Tom Simpson that I’ve collected during his years as a professional cyclist and various other statistics about this great cyclist. Mid 60’s, you are just a teenager and you have your own heroes. For the majority these heroes are pop artists and for a few these are sportsmen. You attend high school and you fill every empty space in your agenda with articles and photos of the Beatles, Stones, Marianne Faithfull, you name it. And then there’s this exception in the classroom. One that uses every empty space in his agenda to honor his own hero: Tom Simpson. Read the complete story about a Simpson-fanatic here. Apart from an extensive scrapbook the collection consists of some unique pieces that you will find nowhere else. A small portion of the collection can be found on this website.
Why Tom Simpson? He certainly isn’t Dutch and he wasn’t the type of cyclist that would go around winning everything there was to win. Just an ordinary professional cyclist like there were dozens of others.
It are the years that, for a young lad in a mid-sized municipality, there’s not much to do except for playing football or tour around the block on your bike. We all had a bike and because we really didn’t have anything else to do we would pay a visit to every cycling criterion in our area. And there were a lot of those criterions back then.
We would leave early in the morning, on our everyday bikes, more than a hundred kilometers to the Acht van Chaam and back, Ulvenhout, Made, Ossendrecht, you name it. And going there wasn’t like a leisure trip, no, it were races to us and we imagined ourselves being real professional cyclists. We had a Jo de Roo and Jan Janssen in our group. And me? I was Tom Simpson. Why him? I have no idea. I just was Tom Simpson. The eyes of the television cameras were always focused on the elegant Tom Simpson. When BRT cyclist reporter Fred de Bruyne would talk endlessly about everything and nothing, all I was paying attention to was Tom Simpson. The look of Tom Simpson riding his bike was astonishing. The disappointments were enormous every now and then, because Tom ended up short by just a fraction a lot.
The finale of the world championship on the road in 1965 was unforgettable. Tom was heading for the finish together with Rudi Altig. Tom Simpson was the underdog, Altig was in potentially a better finisher. Please, not again, were my thoughts. Don’t end up second again this time, Tom! I watched that finale with my eyes squeezed, nerves unbearable. And then… Tom, champion of the world! Sensational! The feeling I experienced at that moment is indescribable. And no one to share your emotions with, nobody around you cares just a little.
Your friends eventually lose interest in cycling, but you are infected with that virus forever. You quit football, because in the end, the best thing about football where the trips by bike when you played an away-game. You start saving money for a professional race bike and one thing leads to another. In 1966, then only 16 years old, I had saved enough money for my first professional race bike. It was a Remy, costing me 250 Dutch guldens (approx. $165). Remy was the same brand that René Pijnen rode. I started competing in road cycling races in 1967 as well, two years at novice-level and two years at amateur-level, without much success though.
The 13th of July, 1967, all my attention was focused on the television again. The thirteenth stage on the 13th of July. Filled with optimism I was. Yesterday Tom even ended up second, just behind Gerben Karstens, after a mass sprint. A great accomplishment. We are starting to climb the Mont-Ventoux, Tom is with the group of favorites, even though he has a little trouble keeping up with the pace. But nothing to worry about. He is in the top 10 of the general classification and surely he would give all that he’s got today. The cameraman focuses on Tom, when suddenly… Tom is nowhere to be seen. Fred de Bruyne doesn’t say a word about it, he hasn’t noticed it most probably. But I know better, Tom has dropped from the bunch. No camera around to capture it. The later released video of Tom’s final meters where not shown live on television. Then, Fred de Bruyne gives more details, Tom has been taken to a hospital by helicopter. Jan Janssen wins the stage but I couldn’t care less at that point. All I cared about was Tom.
At 6 p.m. I got the news: “Have you heard? Simpson is dead”. The sky falls down on me in an instance. I cried for hours and the date I had with a friend of mine, of course, didn’t go as planned either. She couldn’t stand it that I was late for our date. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind. But at that moment it was the least of my concern. My scrapbook dedicated to Tom Simpson, that I updated every now and then, was suddenly to small from that day on.
Years pass but the memory stays. Of course I visited the Mont-Ventoux years later and climbed it myself several times, in 1979 for the first time. Being married at that point, we stayed at a camping site in Malaucène and from that direction it is ideal to climb the Mont-Ventoux from the town of Bedoin. First a nice 15 kilometer run-up before the climb starts. I visited the Ventoux several times because that mountain kept attracting me. Tom’s monument, first more or less unrecognizable in the moonscape of the Ventoux, has now become a pilgrimage. Personally, it hurts me that people visiting the monument take away so much of the surroundings, exposing the plinth completely.
As long as it’s possible we will keep visiting the Mont-Ventoux, and when the body allows me to, climb it. The emotions will run high over and over again, every time, but the attraction to that mountain will conquer. Tom and the Ventoux are part of your life forever.
And it was bound to happen once, a website dedicated to Tom, all the details delivered by me and translated into a great website by my son.
Enjoy your stay at this website,