Memorial stone on Mont VentouxTom Simpson Memorial,
Mont Ventoux.
Two weeks after Tom’s death in 1967 the then editor of Cycling Weekly magazine, Alan Gayfer called for contributions from readers to create a permanent memorial for Tom. Gayfer’s initial thought was a stained glass window in Haworth All-Saints church, but he soon changed his mind and decided that a memorial stone on Mont Ventoux would serve Tom’s memory best. A cairn had been erected at the place where he died within days, so its position was well known.
Cycling Weekly’s readers raised £1500, the necessary permissions were obtained and the granite memorial erected. The area around it was cleared of loose stones, and rough steps were cut into the bedrock. On Tuesday October 10th 1969, just over two years after Tom died, the memorial was unveiled by Helen Hoban, then still Helen Simpson, and Barry Hoban at a small gathering.
The Tom Simpson Memorial is on the Bedoin side of Mont Ventoux, approximately one kilometre from the summit, on the D974, the road between Bedoin and Malaucène that passes over the mountain. It’s made from granite and bears the silhouette of a racing cyclist, with an inscription in French that reads: ‘In Memory of Tom Simpson, Olympic medallist, world champion, Ambassador of British sport. Died 13th July 1967, Tour de France. From cycling friends in Great Britain.’
Thousands of cyclists, and people who just want to remember Tom, visit the site each year. So many that the crude steps cut in 1969 were worn away, which reduced the amount of natural support the memorial had. Its foundations were also affected by freezing winters, and they were undermined by water, resulting in the precarious situation it was in by 1996. It was saved by money raised by the Tom Simpson Memorial Fund, and by Simon Dutton and friends who also did the work to repair and stabilize it.
Fixing the memorial onto Mont VentouxHowever, after the work to secure the memorial was finished it was obvious that proper steps were required so people could walk safely from the roadside to the stone, preventing what had become a rocky clamber. Tom’s daughter, Joanne Simpson, and the Tom Simpson Memorial Fund raised the money to provide the steps. This was done through various efforts including an appeal to the readers of Cycling Weekly, who gave generously. Sixteen thousand euros were raised, enough to pay for the steps.
But they in turn became worn by constant use, and in 2016 the steps were faced with new stone by Joanne Simpson with the help of friends and a number of Belgian businesses, who provided materials and their time without ever asking for payment. However, the Memorial Fund still donated some money towards their expenses, which was only fair.
The work is finished on the steps and the weatherproofing to the memorial stone. It was officially unveiled on July 13th 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of Tom’s death.