It is unusual for this site to feature a post on a topic or person not directly related to Andre Bertin or the bikes and companies related to Cycles Andre Bertin. Nonetheless, this newly released biography of the 1960s British cyclist Tom Simpson is too important to be overlooked. The book is written by Chris Sidewells, a nephew of Tom Simpson, who has had unparalleled access to family resources in the preparation of this biography. The book was published and copyrighted in late 2018 and is the first of a projected biographical series under the title of Cycling Legends.
Formally, the book is called Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson and its ISBN is 978-1-9164170-0-7. It is a high quality, perfect bound paperback 21 cm (8.25″) wide, 26 cm (10.25″) long and measures 1 cm (7/8″) thick. The book is available directly from the site Cycling Legends . There are 147 pages of text with 2 more of photos at the end of the book. The cost is UKP 25, C$ 42, US$ 32 with the AUS $ and the NZ $ amounts being close to Canada’s pricing. Shipping will vary depending on the location it is dispatched to from the UK. My copy cost UKP 12.50 , C$ 21 or US$ 16 to ship to my location near Niagara Falls, Canada. My review copy was purchased directly through the Cycling Legends UK website. The book was sent promptly after ordering and arrived in a bubble padded shipping envelope in excellent condition. The covers were undamaged and the spine and corners showed no evidence of crushing or bending. An author signature is an option, should the purchaser wish to pay for one. The photographic reproduction and paper quality is excellent as can be seen from the cover image inserted below.
The book has a basic chronological sequence as is to be expected in a biography, but makes effective use of asides throughout the book. Most readers are familiar with the use of sidebars in mixed text and illustrated books being used to elaborate upon or to explain a point in the narration. The author here uses asides to similar ends but they are much longer than a sidebar, sometimes being several pages in length. They are easily identified as being outside of the main narrative because they are printed on pale grey paper in contrast to the main story pages. Two very interesting ones are the interviews with Helen Simpson Hoban and Barry Hoban (Helen’s second husband) with the second being with Tom and Helen’s daughters, Jane and Joanne. Both the main text and the asides are heavily illustrated with well captioned photographs.
Organization of the book is into 10 chapters with 9 of the grey paged asides being distributed in the first 6 of them. The asides act to expand upon the social, personal and professional contexts of what is being discussed in the associated chapter. The final 4 chapters do not include asides and move forward with the narrative quickly gaining momentum as it proceeds towards the final chapter and the details of Tom Simpson’s death during the Tour de France stage on Mont Ventoux on July 13th, 1967. The chapters themselves are arranged chronologically as descriptions of the significant races done, lost and won by Simpson in his career. Each chapter and aside is supported with associated black and white and coloured photographs such as the one above of Tom Simpson in the 1963 Bordeaux-Paris race.
In the final chapter, the author examines the details of Tom Simpson’s death from heat exhaustion and stimulant use and the effects it had on the 1967 Tour and on the riders who had been Tom’s friends as well as rivals.
Cycling Legends 01 Tom Simpson is an outstandingly well written, superbly illustrated and informative book about one of the most significant English speaking riders of the 20th Century. Yes, there were people like Major Taylor, Sir Hubert Opperman, and Torchy Peden before him but in the mid-century, there was Tommy Simpson who paved the way in professional cycling for a further influx of English speakers like Greg Lemond, Phil Anderson, Stephen Roche, Steve Bauer and Sean Kelly. I highly recommend this book for its sensitive writing, useful insights about the pro scene of the time and its remarkable selection of period photographs. Some of the most poignant are to be found on the book’s last two pages and are taken of the memorial cards and floral tributes given just after Tom Simpson’s death. This book is well worthy of your attention.