Simpson dies at Tour de France
Tommy Simpson, the British cyclist, died early this evening after collapsing during a mountain stage of the Tour de France in intense heat this afternoon, on the ascent of Mont Ventoux, a barren mountain rising over 6,000 ft near Carpentras. A doctor tried to give him artificial respiration and he was flown at once by ambulance helicopter to Avignon hospital. But soon after 6.30pm the press at Carpentras were told that Simpson, 29, had died.
The collapse came two miles before the summit of Mont Ventoux on the 13th stage of the race from Marseilles to Carpentras. Simpson had been riding well through the day; all that struck one of his team-mates was that he was taking drinks more often than usual. At the bottom of the Col he had been dropped by one of the leading groups, but towards the top of the climb he was still well up in the broken field and trying to regain contact with Aimar’s small pursuing group 200 yards ahead.
Then, as the few eyewitnesses described it, he faltered in his riding and fell over to the side of the road. The British team car was right behind him. Harry Hall, the team’s chief mechanic, helped Simpson remount his cycle, but Simpson fell once more.
Dr Pierre Dumas, the doctor who travelled with the tour, examined him and immediately ordered his transfer by police helicopter to the nearest hospital. Simpson’s was the first known death in the Tour’s history. He was lying seventh in the overall race after the 12th lap and was the only Briton ever to have worn the yellow jersey of overall leader in the race – in 1962. Tour officials announced that a ceremony to mark his death would be held tomorrow morning at the start of the fourteenth lap. “It is just like autoracing. The race goes on,” said one.
As a rider Simpson was only just short of the very highest class. He was a good climber, a brave descender, an efficient all-rounder and highly professional. Only one season did he fail to win at least one of the classic races, and in 1965 he became world champion, and was voted sportsman of the year. He rode in five Tours de France before this one, but in the last two he was put out of the race through injury. He had badly wanted to do well this year to prove himself a reliable team man. Geoffrey Nicholson