It is hard to be triumphant about a book which is centered on a tragedy - the death of Tom Simpson while struggling up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France. However you look at the accident - naiveté or ignorance, drug abuse, a willful disregard of personal safety, someone who refused to give up or someone attempting to do what was expected and demanded, the need to succeed at all costs or the fear of failure; his death remains a tragedy.
As with Princess Diana, it was his death which defined the life of Simpson, and leaves behind big questions - what price the spectacle (the media/) we demand from our sporting heroes, and drug-use in sport.
Like a detective, the author has pieced together the life of Simpson from records and eye-witness accounts. It is done with respect, but unlike others who would prefer to gloss over certain facts this feels like a well-balanced account. There is no denying the truth is uncomfortable (and there is something ghoulish in how the cameras keep rolling), but then the lies and cover-ups have fueled a controversy less than dignified.
The events of the day are first covered in detail in Chapter 2, so I am not sure what sequence the book follows, if any. In fact the chapters could be read at random without any great loss. (I am not sure if this amounts to a criticism or not, certainly not a major one!) Between chapters are short press extracts recording some of Simpson's better days - they give a sense of just how extraordinary an athlete Simpson was and the kind of hero-worship he engendered.
However, the important work of the author was in what he could capture of Simpson's personality and his world. He allows the story to emerge, and the story is bigger than the book - as raw feelings 40 years on and a memorial turning into a shrine clearly demonstrate.