50th anniversary of the death of champion cyclist, Tom Simpson
Tom Simpson (right) at the family home in Bircotes, the colliery village for Harworth Colliery.
Tom Simpson spent his formative years in an around the Nottinghamshire coalmining village of Harworth on the borders with South Yorkshire. His dad was a miner at Harworth Colliery, the family having migrated from the Durham Coalfield to Harworth. Tom started his cycling career at Harworth and District Cycling Club at the age of 13. In 1965 he was World Road Race Cycling Champion and winning the Tour de France became an obsession for him. On 13th July whilst on Stage 13 of the 1967 Tour de France, on the tortuous slopes of Mount Ventoux, Simpson was pushing himself, and lurching over his cycle, he started zig-zagging from side to side, twice falling off his cycle before collapsing. All efforts to resuscitate him failed and he was pronounced dead at Allgon Hospital at 5.40 pm. The official cause of his death was heart failure cause by heat exhaustion but it was the issue of drugs in sport that dominated the headlines after traces of amphetamines were found in his body.
Three thousand people attended his funeral at Harworth village. A memorial to him was erected at the place where he died on Mount Ventoux, this since has become a place of pilgrimage for cyclists worldwide. A replica of the memorial exists in Harworth village, not far from the memorial which commemorates Harworth Colliery itself. The colliery operated from 1924 to 2006.