Tommy Simpson

Simpson’s Last Finishing Line – Tour de France 1967

Tommy SimpsonMuch has been written about the death of Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France 13th Stage (Thursday 13 July), and indeed I still have the press cuttings.  However, I kept also a cutting from a paper of the morning of 13 July  –  i.e. reporting on Stage 12 the previous day.   J.B. (Jock) Wadley, writing in The Daily Telegraph, captured beautifully the romance of the Tour, and below is the report in full, but your attention is drawn to the last line which is nothing short of ominous.


RIOTTE SLIPS GROUP TO TAKE MARSEILLES STAGE

SIMPSON SECOND IN PACK

By J.B. Wadley – MARSEILLES, Wednesday

The riders pottered along at touring pace under the scorching sun nearly an hour behind schedule despite having started today’s 129-mile-stage from Digne to here 20 minutes before the advertised time.  With 40 miles to go, a group of seven riders raised the temperature even higher by breaking away.  Then Raymond Riotte (France) slipped away while his team colleague Lemetayer “looked after” the other five.

Riotte topped the final climb of the day on his own and and swooped down to Marseilles to win the stage in the fine Municipal Stadium.  Last week Riotte wore the yellow jersey as race leader for one day.  Second place looked an easy number for his friend Lemetayer, and that is how he finished, but only after Basso (Italy) had been relegated to last place of the next little group for too liberal use of his elbows.

PACK ARRIVES – Simpson second

VV Classics Peugeot BP merino wool jersey
VV Classics Peugeot BP jersey

A minute and a half after Riotte, in came the long, colourful line of 100 riders onto the track, with the white-jerseyed Tom Simpson in second position.  That Simpson was “having a go” in a massed sprint was an indication that he is in now much better health.  A lap and a half later on the finishing line Simpson was still second, beaten only by Karstens (Holland) and satisfied with his form.  The other members of the British team were all in the big bunch and, like everybody else, very hot, tired and thirsty.

If the cycle racing specialist’s notebook contained nothing of importance for most of the day, that of the human interest writer was full enough.  The route was loaded with colour and variety, taking the riders from snow-cooled Alpine freshness at Digne to the Mediterranean by way of the hot sandy hills of Provence on winding roads, climbing and tumbling among the vines, olive groves, lavender fields and golden corn.

The riders were performing all the antics Tour men have been up to on the heat-wave stages since 1903, hopping off their machines, splashing their faces in village fountains, filling bottles from the same source or raiding cafés for beer or mineral water.  Some roadside picnickers had bottles snatched from under their noses.

FIELD DAY – Poulidor’s aid

The photographers’ field day included a shot of Raymond Poulidor, usually the master but now  –  following his accident and considerable loss of time  –  the “domestique” pacing his colleague Aimar back to the group after one of these incidents.

Nobody was surprised at the day’s leisurely pace.  They are understandably tired after 13 days’ riding and they also had in mind that tomorrow’s stage includes the 5,750 ft climb of the Ventoux mountain.  Even with air conditioning, climbing this “giant of Provence” on a bicycle would be hard enough.  In the prevailing heat and in battle order there are likely to be heavy casualties to report tomorrow night.

Stage 12: Wednesday, July 12, Digne - Marseille, 207.5 km

1.  Raymond Riotte: 6hr 16min 8sec 
2.  Paul Letemeyer @ 49sec
3.  Johnny Schleck s.t.
4.  Wim Schepers s.t.
5.  Marino Basso s.t.
6.  Gerben Karstens @ 1min 30sec
7.  Tom Simpson s.t.
8.  Guido Reybrouck s.t.
9.  Georges Vandenberghe s.t.
10. Walter Godefroot s.t.

GC after Stage 12:

1.  Roger Pingeon: 68hr 59min 39sec
2.  Désiré Letort @ 4min 2sec
3.  Julio Jimenez @ 4min 57sec
4.  Franco Balmamion @ 5min 48sec
5.  Felice Gimondi @ 6min 15sec
6.  Lucien Aimar @ 7min 2sec
7.  Tom Simpson @ 8min 20sec
8.  Jan Janssen @ 8min 39sec
9.  Noël Van Clooster @ 9min 34sec
10. Cees Haast @ 9min 38sec

About Tony Varey

Tony Varey took up cycling at school in the 1960s and became an avid follower of the sport. Struggling to understand the rapidfire RTL race commentaries on a transistor radio certainly helped his French!He then left it behind and followed a career in the oil business including time in Latin America and the Middle East before returning to cycling in his fifties.His enthusiasm has recently been invigorated by the rediscovery of the joys of riding vintage steel-framed bikes around the lanes of West Sussex.

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