Olympic cy­clist un­veils trib­ute to role model

MON­U­MENT IN IDOL’S NORTH HOME

Sunday Sun - - News - By Laura Hill Reporter Laura.Hill@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

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