Posted: 7/14/2007
Title: DEATH ON THE MOUNTAIN

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     Its was 40 years ago on July 13th 1967 that Tom Simpson died on Mount Ventoux on the 13th leg of the TOUR DE FRANCE.,

     Riding his Peugot bike on the Great Britain team he was wearing a white jersey with Union Jack emblem on each shoulder, a white cap, white fingerless mittens and black shorts.   He was 100 km into his ride up the mountain in Provence on the Marseilles to Carpentras leg and 2 km from the 6,000 ft summit. Tom was the son of a Durham miner and lived in Harworth in North Nottinghamshire as a boy, which had a coal mine in those days.  He was the only Englishman ever to be World Road Race champion and the only one to ever wear the Yellow jersey maillot jaune, as Tour de France leader.  He had won the Paris-Nice Race and was BBC Sports Personailty of the Year, the only time a cyclist has ever won that award.

    He was a flamboyant showman off the bike and very popular with fans in both Britain and France, but he pushed himself too far. On his last 2 legs he had suffered from dehydration and diarrhoea, and his mechanic Harry Hyde had suggested he give up after he fell off his bike for the first time that very hot day - 120F and 49 centigrade.  He insisted getting put on his bike again saying 'Put me back on my bike'  the last sentence he ever spoke.  500 meters further on he fell again and was probably dead by then. He was 'Au bout du Rouleau' At the end of his tether. on his RIDE TO DESTRUCTION.  Tour doctor Pierre Dumas happened to be nearby and summond a helicopter to take Simpson to Avignon Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5.40pm.

    Massive amounts of amphetamines and alcohol were found in his system (he had carried them in his jersey pocket), and also in the team car, and he had stopped by a tavern after the start and drank brandy and coca cola.  In those days riders were limited to 4 bottles of water, although the public offered more, and they were not allowed to accept water from their team cars.  IT WAS THE FIRST OF MANY TOUR DE FRANCE DRUG SCANDALS.  There is a memorial plaque on the side of the mountain where Tom died that afternoon  A la memoire de Tom Simpson, medaille Olympique, champion du Monde, ambassadeur sportif Britannique.  One of Tom's daughters plus 2 of his team mates that day Barry Hoban and Vin Denson and current members of the Harworth and District CC today set out from Carpentras to the granite memorial where he fell.

    This week a biography of Tom Simpson called PUT ME BACK ON MY BIKE was published by author William Fotheringham.

    Today, 14th July is the anniversary of the very first World Cup match ever played, in 1930  France 4 vs Mexico 1 in Montevideo, Uruguay in frontt of about 1,000 spectators.

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