Olympic cyclist unveils tribute to role model
MONUMENT IN IDOL’S NORTH HOME
BRITAIN’S most successful Olympian has unveiled a monument to his idol in his home village.
Tommy Simpson was born in Haswell village in County Durham and went on to become one of Britain’s most successful cyclists – as well as Sir Bradley Wiggins’ role model.
He became a world champion, won bronze for his country at the 1956 Olympic games and was the first ever Brit to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
Widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever cyclists, he died at the age of 29 after collapsing on Mount Ventoux during the 1967 Tour De France.
And, on the anniversary of that day in July, riders made the pilgrimage up the mountain’s infamous slopes to pay tribute to the sporting great.
Sir Bradley, who grew up idolising Simpson, joined the ride, before agreeing to unveil the memorial in Simpson’s home village.
But when Sir Bradley visited it proved to be a somewhat awkward encounter.
Scores of cycling fanatics turned out to see their hero but, instead of hearing tales from the Yorkshireman’s cycling career, they had to make do with the village historian.
In bizarre scenes, the chairman of the Haswell History Society and Haswell community centre Alan Liversidge waxed lyrical to the crowds about his holidays in France with his wife Doreen.
Reading from a fourpage speech, Alan talked about restaurants he ate in on holiday while an exasperated Sir Bradley gestured for him to hurry up.
But Alan wasn’t one to take a hint and continued to read his well-crafted speech.
Despite Councillor Peter Brooks promising four speeches before the unveiling of the memorial, Sir Bradley wisely stepped up sooner and paid tribute to Tom Simpson, the County Durham cyclist who died 50 years Tom Simpson receiving the freedom of Saint Amandsberg, where he lived in Belgium. Next to him is wife Helen and opposite is his dad, Tom Simpson Snr ago on the ascent of Mont Ventoux.
“I wont bore you like Alan, I haven’t got four pages,” he joked before struggling to pull a Union flag off the memorial stone.
“I didn’t expect that many people to turn out. When I was asked to do this I didn’t hesitate in saying yes, but thought there would just be a couple of people here.
“It is fantastic to see so many young people here considering how long ago it was and it’s nice to see what Tom means to a lot of people.
“He was certainly my hero and will continue to be.”
Sir Bradley Wiggins unveils a memorial to local cyclist Tom Simpson, inset