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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Remembering Mr Tom
Simpson memorial
The memorial is passed during the 1994 race
Four British cyclists have worn the leader's yellow jersey of the Tour de France.

The latest hero David Millar is competing in this year's race while Chris Boardman sits at home, nurses his sinusitis and prepares for the Olympics.

Sean Yates, currently manager of Britain's major professional team Linda McCartney, is watching the Tour on television while giving BBC Sport Online the benefit of his experience.

But the fourth man is not around to see this Tour - or any of the previous 32 races.

Tom Simpson
Simpson during the 1967 race - days before his death
Tom Simpson died during the 1967 event, and on Thursday afternoon the race passes by the place where he died.

Many of the riders will pay homage at the memorial which marks the spot.

Mont Ventoux is a magical place for cyclists - but also a tragic one.

Simpson, "Mr Tom" as he came to be known, was the first rider from the UK to make his mark in the tough world of professional European cycling.

Like Boardman, Yates and Millar - plus 1984 King of the Mountains Robert Millar and multiple Tour stage winner Barry Hoban - after him, he broke away from the British scene to successfully chance his arm abroad.

Tommy Simpson collapsing in the 1967 Tour de France
Tom Simpson collapses on the Ventoux
Riding for the top class Peugeot team during the 1960s, he won the world championship road race as well as countless other famous victories.

Sadly he is best remembered for his death - a story which says a lot about the sport itself.

To say Simpson was gutsy is to understate his commitment to the sport - he literally rode until he dropped.

This attitude cost him his life, and is reflected by thousands of other competitors who have put themselves through pain and suffering for Tour glory.

But the tragedy also exposed cycling's dark side.

Simpson had taken amphetamines before attempting the pain and suffering of the Ventoux in 35 degrees celcius heat.

Close shot of plaque on memorial
Simpson's memorial is a shrine for cyclists
He was certainly not the only rider to do so that day but he was the most stubborn when it came to his body crying "enough".

Simpson's response was to repeatedly ask to be put back on his bike, despite collapsing and falling from the machine in the searing heat.

What was found inside the dead rider's body awoke cycling's rulers to the drug culture in the sport.

Ever since they have been trying to beat it, with many setbacks along the way.

Tom Simpson
Simpson was a popular rider in France
But Simpson did not die in vain. Despite the recent controversy over the drug EPO, there is no question that the sport became safer as a result of this sad event.

The dangerous abuse of amphetamines was stamped out, and if this was as a result of the increased use of other drugs then at least the sport has not seen a repeat of Simpson's death.

For all cyclists, and many others, the Simpson memorial has understandably become a shrine.

The peloton will pay its respects at the height of competition on Thursday's stage.

See also:

28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
28 Jun 00 | Tour de France
Links to more Tour de France stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more Tour de France stories

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