Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tom Simpson RIP

sport-graphics-2007_706068aTom Simpson was the leader of the GB cycling team, he was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1965 and was admired by all for his bulldog sprit.

He’d won the world championships two years before and finished sixth in the Tour of 1962.  The last two Tours though he had failed to finish due to illness.

Preparation in 1967 was good, he’d won the Paris-Nice but then had to be dragged off his bike during the Vuelta. He’d already won two stages in Spain but on the on the ascent of Port d'Envalira in the Pyrenees he started wandering across the road.

Then came the Tour de France

Mont Ventoux is brutal and Simpson had suffered from terrible gastric problems days before such that the mechanic had to hose down his bike. That day he was rationed to four bottles of water and so was already dehydrated on a scorcher where temperatures reached 54. Reports say that he went into a cafe with other riders and drank coke with brandy to try and ease his stomach problems.

The final pictures of Simpson, taken from a press motorbike, show how depleted he actually was. His cheeks were hollow, his eyes were sunken and desperate, his skin was pale  and parched with dehydration. Finally he fell off his bike and got back on only to fall again. The Tour  doctor tried to resuscitate him but it was hopeless. He was airlifted to Avignon where he died at 5:40pm.

The post mortem found amphetamines and alcohol in his blood and there were amphetamines in both  his jersey pocket and in the team car.  Amphetamines aren't of course performance enhancing, they mask reality with short buzzes of euphoria.

The 21km climb with gradients from 8 to 14 percent was just too much for Simpson in his weakened state especially when he came out from the forest area to the arid landscape at the top of Mont Ventoux, Sadly, he paid the ultimate price.

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