Memorial to Tom Simpson blown over by strong winds on Mont Ventoux

Monument to former world champion who died on mountain in 1967 has become a place of pilgrimage for cyclists

by Simon_MacMichael   December 12, 2013  

Tom Simpson Memorial blown over (Photo: Ruud de Bont, www.dekaleberg.nl)

The memorial on Mont Ventoux to Tom Simpson, the first British road world champion and the first to wear the yellow jersey of Tour de France leader, has been blown over as a result of strong winds. The granite memorial, unveiled by Simpson’s wife Helen in 1968, the year after he died on the mountain during a stage of the Tour de France, has become a place of pilgrimage for cyclists, particularly from the UK.

Earlier today, a picture of the memorial was posted to the Tom Simpson Appreciation Group page on Facebook, with a message from one of Simpson's daughters, Joanne, that read:

Sadly to say, Daddy's monument on the Ventoux was blown down due to heavy winds. Hope the winter wouldn't last to long so we can start repairing it. Breaks my heart to see it like this.

Veloventoux Cycling Holidays also posted the picture to their Facebook page, together with the following comment:

Just got this bad news this morning. Trying to get in touch with the Tom Simpson Appreciation Society regarding what's going to happen about repairing this. I'll keep you posted and let you know if there's any fundraising going to start up to pay for any building work. Tom deserves this to be fixed as soon as possible. Absolutely gutted!

In response to a comment asking what had happened, they added:

It blew over in the wind Binksy. Have to admit last week the Mistral wind was howling. Looking on the bright side it didn't crack which would have been devastating.

Some people commenting on the thread have asked whether there is a link to a fundraising page to help pay for the memorial’s repair.

Craig Entwistle of Veloventoux Cycling Holidays told road.cc he had spoken to cycling writer Chris Sidwells - Simpson's nephew, and author of the book Mr Tom: The True Story of Tom Simpson - who said there was money in the memorial fund to pay for repairs.

Entwistle said: "I race with local cycling club USC Vaison la Romaine and there's two builders who ride regularly in the club. I'm going up there with a friend tomorrow at 10am and we're going to take as many pics as we can and get the ball rolling in terms of getting a builder on board and getting the memorial back into a pristine condition ready for next season when the road opens in April.

He added that "the problem at the moment is the weather has just turned," leading to it being extremely cold on the mountain at the moment.

The memorial was erected with the help of £1,500 – around £22,000 today – and this isn’t the first time it has needed repairing.

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of Simpson’s death in 1997, with the memorial bearing the scars of Mont Ventoux’s harsh climate - its name is French for 'windy mountain' - steel rods were placed inside to secure it to a new plinth. A decade later, new concrete steps were added.

The official cause of Simpson’s death was stated by the French authorities as heart failure due to dehydration and heat exhaustion, with drugs – specifically amphetamines, which he is said to have taken with brandy – a contributory factor.

Among riders to have paid their tributes to Simpson as they passed the memorial over the years have been two British riders to follow him into the yellow jersey, David Millar and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

In July this year, the latest, Wiggins’ successor as Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, became the first British rider to win a Tour de France stage on the mountain.

37 user comments

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Shocking, the disrespect the French wind has for a true British sporting hero. Shocking the sycophancy for just another cheat. Take your pick; as usual life falls somewhere in between internet chatter.
Just needs a bit of cross bracing, plenty of room behind for a T-stone.


I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1751 posts]
12th December 2013 - 19:38

15 Likes

Among riders to have paid their tributes to the Shamed Simpson as they passed the memorial over the years have been two British riders to follow him into the yellow jersey, Utterly Disgraced David Millar...

(Journalistic integrity redressed)

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
12th December 2013 - 20:25

8 Likes

Millar (have you read his book ?) had the chance to make amends and redeem himself - an opportunity Simpson never had.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
12th December 2013 - 21:23

19 Likes

TheDoctor wrote:
Just another monument to a drug cheat.

Hypocritical and Funny how everyone is cooing over this, yet villifying riders caught more recently.

You need to get yourself educated in the history of professional cycling. Perhaps then your comments will be less twattish!

posted by daddyELVIS [651 posts]
12th December 2013 - 21:24

22 Likes

Huw Watkins wrote:
TheDoctor wrote:
Just another monument to a drug cheat.

Hypocritical and Funny how everyone is cooing over this, yet villifying riders caught more recently.

Apples and potatoes

A different world and one without your astonishing vision - though perhaps a little more sympathy. C*ck

Yes yes well done, look at you all brave with your name calling!

A drug cheat is still a drug cheat! Or does it only count if they're from Texas?

Allthough all this defending of the drug cheat simpson does show one thing, there clearly are many retarded idiots with stupid opinions like daddyELVIS !

posted by TheDoctor [135 posts]
12th December 2013 - 22:55

12 Likes

Hear hear DaddyElvis.
To "the doctor" ....appropriately you are a monumental cock!

Let's hope it's repaired soon, god bless you Mr Simson.

We're all entitled to a reasonable opinion!

posted by Guyz2010 [298 posts]
12th December 2013 - 22:57

9 Likes

Guyz2010 wrote:
Hear hear DaddyElvis.
To "the doctor" ....appropriately you are a monumental cock!

Maybe but at least i'm not stupid like you, does your carer know youre on the internet ?

posted by TheDoctor [135 posts]
12th December 2013 - 23:09

11 Likes

TheDoctor wrote:
Huw Watkins wrote:
TheDoctor wrote:
Just another monument to a drug cheat.

Hypocritical and Funny how everyone is cooing over this, yet villifying riders caught more recently.

Apples and potatoes

A different world and one without your astonishing vision - though perhaps a little more sympathy. C*ck

Yes yes well done, look at you all brave with your name calling!

A drug cheat is still a drug cheat! Or does it only count if they're from Texas?

Allthough all this defending of the drug cheat simpson does show one thing, there clearly are many retarded idiots with stupid opinions like daddyELVIS !

I can't see anyone "defending drugs cheats" on this thread. People would like to see the memorial repaired. People know he doped. He paid the ultimate price for it. Remembering that is important, and this memorial helps do just that.

posted by teaboy [277 posts]
13th December 2013 - 0:24

20 Likes

It could indeed be argued that as well as commemorating Simpson, the memorial shows the folly of doping.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
13th December 2013 - 7:05

10 Likes

allez neg wrote:
Millar (have you read his book ?) had the chance to make amends and redeem himself - an opportunity Simpson never had.

Quite. Millar did wrong. He accepts he did wrong. Under investigation, he told the police about occasions he'd doped that they would otherwise never have known about. He's worked hard since to help turn the sport around.

But then he doesn't mind that some people will not forgive him. He says polarising figures are good- better than being bland.

He's not like Simpson- who paid the ultimate price. He's not like Lance, who was a bully and a mastermind as well as a doper, and is (that Oprah bull aside) unrepentent.

posted by Al__S [874 posts]
13th December 2013 - 9:59

11 Likes

The cycling gods are angry!

spatuluk's picture

posted by spatuluk [27 posts]
13th December 2013 - 10:40

7 Likes

I don't understand, it's not that big, why can't it just be picked up and concreted down?

posted by alexholt3 [52 posts]
13th December 2013 - 11:42

7 Likes

I dont think the name calling is necessary, It's a forum, people post opinions. We may not agree, but hey that's life.
For what it's worth, I am sorry a talented Rider died in pursuit of glory. It is also a shame that a monument to him has been damaged. However as he is known to have had amphetamine in his system at the time of his demise, I feel it is fair comment to question the thought processes of people in the general public who now hold him in such high regard whilst at the same time vilifying modern day cheats. To take a point from an earlier post, are not some of the current crop of dopers also imperfect and charismatic?.
I think most would agree that the man was talented, and had grit, but should we condone drug use?. Probably not.
Should we applaud someone who literally rides themself to death?, and more to the point what does that say about us?.

posted by missfaversham [5 posts]
13th December 2013 - 12:35

8 Likes

I should imagine a few steel strengthening bars into the base and then cement up would do the trick. Hope to see it back up soon.

southseabythesea's picture

posted by southseabythesea [136 posts]
13th December 2013 - 14:06

6 Likes

Trite comment about drug usage is irrelevant, as is the balance of opinion over the validity of his athletic achievement.
I didn't personally know Mr Simpson, I'm not old enough to have had even the outside opportunity. From reading about his life it seems he touched the hearts and minds of a great many people, and left his friends and family too early.
Behind every dead cycling persona was a human being, with human failings and a network of people living with the grief of their loss. This transcends the sporting arena, and applies to us all. We should all respect the wishes of a great many people who want to continue to remember this Gentleman who happened to be a cyclist.

posted by Hoester [67 posts]
13th December 2013 - 14:52

11 Likes

At this years tour Sky went used up 3000 Gatorade water bottles, which will have, on various occasions, contained water or fluids to speed up replacing whatever the riders had lost.

In Tom's day they were allowed around 2 litres of water a day.

There wasn't the science there is now, to equate the drug use back then to today's doping practices is like comparing your patio to my staircase.

Would you class this as cheating today?

http://www.sportpursuit.com/wp_blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tour-de-f...

posted by farrell [1908 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:11

5 Likes

They actually managed to get their fags lit though!

posted by farrell [1908 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:20

6 Likes

farrell wrote:

Would you class this as cheating today?

I don't know would you?

William Black's picture

posted by William Black [196 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:21

8 Likes

missfaversham wrote:
I dont think the name calling is necessary, It's a forum, people post opinions. We may not agree, but hey that's life.
For what it's worth, I am sorry a talented Rider died in pursuit of glory. It is also a shame that a monument to him has been damaged. However as he is known to have had amphetamine in his system at the time of his demise, I feel it is fair comment to question the thought processes of people in the general public who now hold him in such high regard whilst at the same time vilifying modern day cheats. To take a point from an earlier post, are not some of the current crop of dopers also imperfect and charismatic?.
I think most would agree that the man was talented, and had grit, but should we condone drug use?. Probably not.
Should we applaud someone who literally rides themself to death?, and more to the point what does that say about us?.

Your considered comments do somewhat display a lack of knowledge about professional cycling - as did those of 'The Doctor'. Hence my anger and my response.

Drugs have been endemic in the sport since its genesis. Whether ether, cocaine, heroin or strychnine, drugs were adopted wholesale at the outset to enable riders to cope with the extreme challenges they were set by race organisers.

However, in 2013 we all have very different ideas about what is now acceptable - as we do about many other issues that the majority were more than happy to live with in 1903 e.g. the 50% depopulation of the Congo, mustard gas, the non-emancipation of women, etc, etc

Tom Simpson's death was notable for a number of reasons: he was a very popular and successful rider, and it happened on camera.

It could very well be argued that it was his death that began the whole change in attitude towards (and the regulation of) PEDs in cycling that has led us to our current position of 20/20 vision and moral rectitude.

From that point onwards, we have indeed started to think about what it says about us and what we expect of others in this arena.

The reasons behind the ongoing admiration for Simpson are complex but only someone without the full context would struggle not to describe him as a victim.

p.s. If it helps at all, I'd be very happy to call The Doctor a cock to his face.

posted by Huw Watkins [88 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:57

8 Likes

[deleted and edited]

posted by Huw Watkins [88 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:57

3 Likes

Tom Simpson absolutely should be respected as a man, as should the wishes of him, his family and friends. Equally everyone has the right to remember him as they wish.

The question - Is drug use in the 60's comparable to the 90's onwards?. Well, each race is run with a set of rules stating what is or is not allowed. If someone sets out to deliberately do something to gain an advantage that is not permitted under the rules which were current at the time, and it is not done for the sake of their own wellbeing such as drinking water when required, then I would argue that the act could well be regarded as cheating. As such I think a comparison can be drawn when considering attitudes to cheating.

If we choose to gloss over the cheating of the past , and continue to revere the legends that went down this route then we implicitly accept their practices and therefore risk them remaining an integral part of the culture of the sport.

posted by missfaversham [5 posts]
13th December 2013 - 16:01

7 Likes

missfaversham wrote:
If we choose to gloss over the cheating of the past , and continue to revere the legends that went down this route then we implicitly accept their practices and therefore risk them remaining an integral part of the culture of the sport.

No, no we don't. We can accept and love cycling's past for what it was whilst still evolving. Otherwise we'd still see riders on fixed wheel bikes and wooden rims.

posted by farrell [1908 posts]
13th December 2013 - 16:29

5 Likes

I'm generally none too keen on revisionism in historical events.

Simpson needs to be judged by the values of his time, and perhaps the influence he had on cycling regarding his doping. To judge the dopers of the 60s with today's values, well, who'd be left unsullied by suspicion?

I think as the 90s came about and some of the farcical events surrounding doping in pro cycling from then on did immeasurable damage to the credibility of the sport (and still damages it to this day) then I'd agree that we should see the legacy of dopers like Pantani and Ullrich, Riis etc with scepticism and ambivalence.

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
13th December 2013 - 16:31

6 Likes

Brandy and some wiz doesnt really constitute 'doping' in my opinion.
Sounds like a good night out in Manchester in the early 90s to me.
I think we should put up a 100ft statue to anyone who can ride a bike up Mt Ventoux a bit pissed and buzzing his tits off.
Chapeau!
Party

posted by Some Fella [904 posts]
13th December 2013 - 17:36

6 Likes

Some Fella wrote:
Brandy and some wiz doesnt really constitute 'doping' in my opinion.
Sounds like last night in Manchester

Edited for you.

posted by farrell [1908 posts]
13th December 2013 - 17:42

13 Likes

Shocking French workmanship is the real scandal here. Metal? Concrete? T bracing? No. Keep it simple and stick a boulder behind it. Should have had that in the first place.

Loving the bickering. A genuine cure for cancer would start a fight on this forum between those in favour and those opposed... Yawn

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1195 posts]
13th December 2013 - 17:42

7 Likes

MercuryOne wrote:
Loving the bickering. A genuine cure for cancer would start a fight on this forum between those in favour and those opposed... Yawn

Nah, that would end up as a debate on Lance Armstrong!

posted by farrell [1908 posts]
13th December 2013 - 17:46

4 Likes

For those that are unaware of the history of our sport, the UCI banned performance enhancing drugs following what happened to Tommy. He was looking for "marginal gains" to perform at the top level of cycling. I feel it's wrong for him to be labelled a 'drug cheat' when he didn't brake any rules of the sport. Mark Cavendish likes his caffeine, if that's one day banned by the UCI does it retrospectively make him a cheat? I take energy gels when I ride, if they are banned one day does that make me a drugs cheat today? I'm sure you get my point.
Good luck to the TSA getting everything fixed. I live close to Harworth, Toms home village, and would love to ride from the memorial here in Yorkshire to the memorial on Mont Ventoux.

My only fear in life is that in the event of my death, my wife will sell my bikes for what she thinks we paid for them.

posted by Velo-Chris [18 posts]
13th December 2013 - 20:08

7 Likes

Simpson was a complex man in a time when there were not the black and white simplistic certainties that many here seem to have so much faith in. The past is a foreign country and all that. He was a pioneer of british cycling and he gave everything for his sport so a memorial is fitting and right and I hope it can be fixed. Still, despite the facile moral outrage expressed in this comment thread by people who have never had to make such choices I suppose we should be at least grateful that nobody has yet claimed he would still be alive if he had been wearing a helmet.

Northernbike's picture

posted by Northernbike [216 posts]
13th December 2013 - 20:24

9 Likes

This is a monument to a man, not to a "clean" cyclist.
To those posting cheap references to drug use / abuse, please let's have some respect for the memory of the man and for his family.

posted by nortonpdj [89 posts]
14th December 2013 - 10:12

8 Likes