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Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson

Introducing the first in our Cycling Legends series of illustrated books.


Words: Chris Sidwells
Photos: Cycling Legends

“Tom Simpson is arguably the most complete British road cyclist of all time. Cavendish was (and still is) a better sprinter, I was a much better time triallist, and Tom couldn’t climb like Robert Millar. However, none of us could have won so many big, important races and widely diverse races, and it is very unlikely that anybody from these shores ever will,” those are the words of Sir Bradley Wiggins writing about Tom Simpson in his latest book, Icons.

Image of Tom Simpson

More than 50 years after his death in the 1967 Tour de France, Tom Simpson is without doubt still Britain’s best single-day race rider. No British cyclist has a better record in the classics and the men’s elite world road race championships than Simpson. He was the first British cyclist ever to win one of the five monuments. Mark Cavendish is the only other British cyclist to have won one, but where Cavendish hasn’t repeated his 2009 Milan-San Remo victory in any other monument, Simpson won three; the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia. 

Image of Tom Simpson

Simpson and Cavendish are the only two British riders to have won the men’s elite world road race championships. Simpson also finished in the top five in every classic race but one during his career, and he won Bordeaux-Paris, a race no longer on the calendar but definitely a classic in the 1960s.

Image of Tom Simpson

In stage races Simpson was Britain’s first ever yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He was the first British rider to win Paris-Nice, and he won two stages in the Vuelta a España. His best overall placing in the Tour de France was sixth in 1962, after crashing and breaking a finger when lying third overall with three days to go.

Image of Tom Simpson

And all this was achieved in just seven years, Simpson was 29 when he died. His career was short but sensational. An Olympic bronze medal two days past his 19th birthday, he is still the only native English speaker to win the Tour of Flanders, which he did at his first attempt and at the age of 23. He was top five in Flanders three years in a row. In 1963 Simpson finished top-ten in eight classics. He finished in the first ten in the men’s elite world road championships four times out of seven participations, and was ranked number two in world cycling twice, each time behind the great Jacques Anquetil. He was also the first cyclist ever to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, as well as many other honours.

Image of Tom Simpson

Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson has been 14 years in the making, 14 years in which I worked as a freelance cycling journalist and author. I’ve written 19 other books in that time, contributed to ten more, and lost count of the number articles I’ve done for newspapers, magazines and websites, but in all that time I had this book in mind. I wanted to write an account of my uncle, Tom Simpson’s life, and illustrate it with photos that work together to tell his story and paint a picture of who he was, as well as what he achieved.

Image of Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson Cover

I’ve met most of Tom’s rivals over those 14 years, some of his many team-mates, friends, managers and people who worked with him and helped him, and of course I already knew his family. Together they filled in the gaps in my knowledge of Tom, they told me about his ability as a cyclist, about the way he raced, the way he won and lost, but in doing so they revealed much more. They told me how they felt about Tom, about what he was like and how he touched their lives. Without exception their stories were told with passion, often with a smile, sometimes a tear, and always with warmth.

Image of pages 114 115 Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson

It was the same with Tom’s wider family, and with my side, the Simpson side, who have been honest and unstinting in their memories of Tom, and with their support for this book. Their help made it special.

One thing that came across is how much more Tom had to give, to his family, to cycling, and how much more he had to gain. His best cycling years and the best years of his life were ahead of him. It would have been wonderful to know him through those years, but it wasn’t to be.

Image of pages 114 115 Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson

In summary, Cycling Legends 01 is an intimate portrait and a celebration of Tom Simpson’s life told in unprecedented detail by his family, friends, rivals, team-mates and managers. The book is lavishly illustrated with 167 black and white and colour photographs, including 50 photos of Tom that have never been published before. They work together with the text to tell Tom Simpson’s story in greater depth and detail than it has ever been told before.

Image of pages 114 115 Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson

Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson is the first of a series of similar books to be published by www.cyclinglegends.co.uk. But Tom Simpson had to be 01.

Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson is available to buy direct from www.cyclinglegends.co.uk using the following link: CLICK HERE


Image of cover Cyclyng Legends illustrated book series. 01 Tom Simpson
Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson
Sales price: £20.00