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.
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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.