CONTENTS Foreword by Phil Liggett Author’s Introduction to Second Edition Preface: Getting It Over With 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 A Boy and His

Bike Super Pursuiter The Sparrow Flies Down Under Distance Makes the Legs Grow Stronger The Brittany Landings Classics, Monuments, Marriage and the Tour Darkest Before the Dawn The Major Wears Yellow The Lion Goes from Strength to Strength Tommi Simpsoni ‘I Hope That One Day, Mr Prime Minister’ After the Rainbow ‘Put Me Back on My Bike’

Appendix: Tom Simpson’s Palmares by Richard Allchin

Reproduced by kind permission of Jeremy Mallard, from his limited-edition print ‘Simpson on Ventoux’

Preface

GETTING IT OVER WITH

When Tom Simpson died on Mont Ventoux whilst competing in the 1967 Tour de France traces of drugs from the amphetamine group were found in his body. Similar drugs were allegedly found in his clothing. There, I’ve said it, got it out of the way right at the beginning of the book. Because of this, notwithstanding that the official cause of his death, arrived at after investigation by the French authorities, was heart failure due to dehydration and heat exhaustion, to which it was said that the drugs could have been a contributory factor, Tom Simpson has been portrayed as anything from a straightforward cheat, responsible single-handedly for subverting the ethics of sport, to a hapless victim whose wings got burned flying too close to his dream of winning the Tour de France. Neither of these theories are true and both do him, and come to that the people who propound them, a disservice. Tom was neither of these. He was a talented, driven professional who paid the ultimate price for pushing a bad situation too far. He was no cheat. To my mind a cheat does something his competitors do not and thereby gains an advantage. This is clearly not the case. Stimulants such as amphetamines were widely used in cycling in the sixties and today the sport is still beset by a drugs problem – the events of the 1998 Tour de France highlight that. Indeed, a drug culture has existed in professional cycling almost since the first race was run. As for being a victim, forget it! Tom knew what he was doing. It was not something he did lightly, too often or without professional advice.

The truth is that Tom knew nothing of the dark side of professional bike racing when he went to live in France in the spring of 1959, but he quickly realised that sometimes he was beaten in races that he just had to win by riders of lesser ability who had taken drugs. What was he going to do? Forget about it all and take the next boat home? Not Tom; he could never have done that, it wasn’t in his nature. So, he turned to the people he’d met over there – people he respected – and, like many before him, and since, he began to use drugs – stimulants, because that’s what they used then. Not often, but use them he did, and I can’t change that. It wasn’t something he was particularly proud of, and I know that it worried him. He would have liked not to have done it; indeed, as we shall see from one particular incident later in the book, he was one of the few top riders who supported what meagre efforts cycling authorities were making at the time to rid the sport of this problem. Unfortunately, the part that drugs played in Tom’s death has been picked over to such an extent that it has overshadowed everything he achieved in his remarkable career, a career that more than 30 years after his death has yet to be equalled by any of his countrymen. I hope that this book will go some way towards restoring that balance. It won’t be a whitewash. I won’t try to present him as a saint. I won’t be making excuses for him; he doesn’t need them. I will just tell you the story of his amazing life, and I hope, at the end of it all, that you will understand Tom Simpson and why I felt that this book needed to be written for his sake. Why I could no longer bear to see a man who had already lost his life, also lose his reputation.

‘There is nothing to prevent him starting the stage, but everything to prevent him finishing. He will be riding virtually one-handed.’ Under the watchful gaze of Dr Dumas and a posse of photographers, Tom struggles towards retirement during Stage 17 of the 1966 Tour de France.

Tour of Lombardy 1965: Tom, in the rainbow jersey, has ridden everybody off his wheel to win alone on the Como track by three minutes – ‘an exploit in the tradition of Fausto Coppi’.