ON THIS DAY: 1967: Doncaster cyclist Tommy Simpson dies during Tour de France - 50 years on from tragedy which rocked sport

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.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th July 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:54 am
Tom Simpson died 50 years ago today.
Tom Simpson died 50 years ago today.

Tommy Simpson lived in Harworth and today the cycling world will remember the star on the 50th 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 in its 104th edition.

But this year's race will not pass the sun-baked and barren spot where he died and which has become a shrine for amateur cyclists to pay their respects at a roadside memorial.

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Simpson was a sporting hero in Harworth.

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.

The cyclist collapsed and died on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in France.

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.

The memorial to Simpson in Harworth.

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.”

And to mark the 50th anniversary, a new book chronicling the life Simpson has been released.

Bird On The Wire by Andy McGrath tells the story of the biker's rise to fame - and his untimely death.

Simpson was a sporting hero in Harworth.

The hardback book contains more than 130 photographs, many never seen before and a spokesman for publishers Bloomsbury said: "Tom Simpson is British cycling's greatest icon.

"Fifty years after he conquered the continental sporting scene, he still captivates people around the world.

"After his dramatic death on Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, amphetamines and alcohol were found in his system, a fact which often dwarfs his pioneering achievements."

The spokesman added: "A charismatic and impulsive character, Simpson lived life fast, with a penchant for spectacular racing, sports cars and fanciful dreams. This man of contradictions was both people's champion and pariah, gentleman and rogue. Guided by rare photography of Simpson, this book explores the Briton's feats and complexities through untold stories from those closest to him."

The cyclist collapsed and died on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in France.
The memorial to Simpson in Harworth.