As elite cyclists go for glory in this year’s Tour de France, for one Doncaster village, the globe’s toughest sporting event will always be synonymous with one of their own.
Tommy Simpson lived in Harworth and today the cycling world will remember the star on the 49th anniversary of his tragic death.
It was on July 13, 1967, that he succumbed to blazing heat on Mont Ventoux, collapsing near the summit of the French peak as he strove for success in the 13th stage of the race, which is already under way in France and now in its 103rd edition.
In his eighth year as a pro-cyclist, Simpson, 29, was keen to make an impact and after the first week, was in sixth place.
Falling ill with diarrhoea, some told him to quit, but he made the fateful decision to plough on, eventually meeting his fate in temperatures topping 45C on the dusty, arrid slopes of that barren French mountainside.
At the start line in Marseille, a journalist noticed Simpson looked tired and asked him if the heat was a problem.
“No, it’s not the heat, it’s the Tour, ” was his reply.
As the race reached the lower slopes, Simpson was seen taking a number of pills with brandy and by the time he had climbed towards the summit, he was zig-zagging across the road.
He fell but was able to get back on but after riding a short distance further, collapsed.
He was pronounced dead after being airlifted to hospital and a post-mortem found he had taken amphetamine and alcohol, a combination which proved fatal when combined with the heat.
The infamous words ‘put me back on my bike’ were never said - they were the invention of a journalist covering the race.
Approximately 5,000 people attended Simpson’s funeral service. A memorial stands close to the spot where he died, while Harworth has several tributes dedicated to his memory.
The epitaph on the cyclist’s gravestone reads: “His body ached, his legs grew tired, but still he would not give in.”