Thomas Simpson (30 November 1937 – 13 July 1967) was one of Britain's most successful professional cyclists. He was born in Haswell, County Durham and later moved to Harworth, Nottinghamshire. Simpson began road cycling as a teenager before taking up track cycling, specialising in pursuit races. He won a bronze medal for track cycling at the 1956 Summer Olympics and a silver at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
In 1959, at age 21, Simpson was signed by the French professional road-racing team Saint-Raphaël–R. Geminiani–Dunlop. He advanced to their first team (Rapha–Gitane–Dunlop) the following year, and won the 1961 Tour of Flanders. Simpson then joined Gitane–Leroux–Dunlop–R. Geminiani; in the 1962 Tour de France he became the first British rider to wear the yellow jersey, finishing sixth overall.
In 1963 Simpson moved to Peugeot–BP–Englebert, winning Bordeaux–Paris that year and the 1964 Milan–San Remo. In 1965 he became Britain's first world road race champion and won the Giro di Lombardia; this made him the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the first cyclist to win the award. Injuries hampered much of Simpson's 1966 season. He won two stages of the 1967 Vuelta a España before he won the general classification of Paris–Nice that year.
In the thirteenth stage of the 1967 Tour de France, Simpson collapsed and died during the ascent of Mont Ventoux. He was 29 years old. The post-mortem examination found that he had mixed amphetamines and alcohol; this diuretic combination proved fatal when combined with the heat, the hard climb of the Ventoux and a stomach complaint. A memorial near where he died has become a place of pilgrimage for many cyclists. Simpson was known to have taken performance-enhancing drugs during his career, when no doping controls existed. He is held in high esteem by many cyclists for his character and will to win.
The thirteenth stage (13 July) of the 1967 Tour de France measured 211.5 km (131.4 mi); it started in Marseille, crossing Mont Ventoux (the "Giant of Provence") before finishing in Carpentras. At dawn Tour doctor, Pierre Dumas, met journalist, Pierre Chany, near his hotel. Dumas noted the warm temperature, "If the boys stick their nose in a 'topette' today, we could have a death on our hands." At the start line, a journalist noticed Simpson looked tired and asked him if the heat was the problem. Simpson replied, "No, it's not the heat, it's the Tour."
As the race reached the lower slopes of Ventoux, Simpson's team mechanic Harry Hall, witnessed Simpson, still ill, putting the lid back on his water bottle as he exited a building. Race commissaire (official), Jacques Lohmuller, later confirmed to Hall that he also saw the incident and that Simpson was putting brandy in his bottle. Near the summit of Ventoux, the peloton began to fracture. Simpson was in the front group before slipping back to a group of chasers about a minute behind. He then began losing control of his bike, zig-zagging across the road. A kilometre from the summit, Simpson fell off his bike. Team manager Alec Taylor and Hall arrived in the team car to help him. Hall tried to persuade Simpson to stop, saying: "Come on Tom, that's it, that's your Tour finished", but Simpson said he wanted to continue. Taylor said, "If Tom wants to go on, he goes". Noticing his toe straps were still undone, Simpson said, "Me straps, Harry, me straps!" They got him on his bike and pushed him off. Simpson's last words, as remembered by Hall, were "On, on, on." Hall estimated Simpson rode a further 500 yd (457 m) before he began to wobble, and was held upright by spectators; he was unconscious, with his hands locked on the handlebars. Hall and a nurse from the Tour's medical team took turns giving Simpson mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, before Dumas arrived with an oxygen mask. Approximately forty minutes after his collapse, a police helicopter took Simpson to nearby Avignon hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:40 p.m. Two empty tubes and a half-full one of amphetamines, one of which was labelled "Tonedron", were found in the rear pocket of his jersey. The official cause of death was "heart failure caused by exhaustion."