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Major Tom The Man Who Rode Himself to Death And Me

For those of you new to cycling, you might not know who Tom Simpson was, so for your benefit; Tom Simpson was one of Britain’s most successful road cyclists, he was an incredible talent and after a short introduction to the sport he was winning Olympic medals. At the age of 22 he won the Tour of Flanders, he went on to win various grand tour stages, the Tour of Lombardia and in 1965, he became the first Britain to win the World Road Race Championships.

During the 13th stage of the 1967 Tour De France, he collapsed and died whilst ascending Mont Ventoux. The footage of his collapse makes difficult viewing but his determination and tenacity can be seen to the end as he grips the bars continues to push on as those around him try and support him. A postmortem would later reveal that the cause of death was a fatal mix of amphetamines and alcohol and it is thought he was using the drink and drugs to numb the pain of a stomach upset.

His life is celebrated every year in his hometown of Harworth with a memorial ride, the proceeds of this ride are shared between the upkeep of his two memorials (one in Harworth and one on Mont Ventoux) and the Dave Rayner fund. The memorial ride developed a fierce reputation as being a tough, quick and non-forgiving early season British Classic, an absolute pedal stomper and this year was no exception.

Departing from Harworth Sports Pavillion, the 55-mile ride snakes its way through Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.

For me this year was slightly different, I was riding Steel! A beautiful Holdsworth Strada. A full stainless steel highly polished Holdsworth racing machine. I got to combine this classic material with a classic ride!

I rolled out of the carpark on time with a few familiar faces, Martin Dainty from Team Cystic Fibrosis, the infamous tri and cycling coach Kevin Dawson, Dean Kirkham and some handy little juniors from Team BikeBox Allen.

We were tapping out a steady rhythm moving up the field and some extra fire power would soon join us. The average speed for the first ten miles was a pretty solid 26mph and the intensity remained pretty solid until mile 36 when the group including some extremely able cyclists joined us and lit the fuse. Russ Downing, Connor Swift, Jake and John Tanner hit my group with some force and lifted the pace instantly. I tried to settle into the new rhythm but the intensity kept lifting, riders around me were dropping off left, right and centre but I was holding in there - JUST.

All this effort was without reward, though – Another rider sat up in the middle of the group and forced a split in the riders, I was the wrong side of a gap and this was soon exploited by those the right side of the gap! Before long the group was beyond reach. Undeterred the remaining riders kept chipping away at the miles, the same faces still riding through and off on the front and the same faces nursing fatigue at the back getting swept along in the draft.

When we approached the final climb I was surprised to see so many riders still with us, not because it was that hard, mainly because I hadn’t seen any of them for the entire ride anywhere near the front.

I offered Jamie Toon of Bike Box Allen a challenge up the final lump, to which he obliged and by the time we hit the top my legs were ready for a good recovery shake and a soak in the bath.

I found out that the quickest time of the day posted by Russ Downing and the lead group was a full 20 minutes faster than the 2013 record. Russ Downing's time on the day was 2.11.00 my time was a respectable 2.16.23.

    • The details of my ride
    • Duration 2.16.42
    • Distance 55.2
    • Average Speed 24.2
    • Calories – 1901
    • Elevation – 879
    • TSS – 169
    • IF – 0.86
    • Normalized Power – 263
    • Heart Rate Average – 156
    • Heart Rate Max – 177
    • Power Average – 236
    • Power Max – 1144


You can check the ride out here and also watch the flyby, it’s great to watch riders like Russ Downing peering down your neck! Ride Strava


7 March 2016