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Put Me Back On My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson [Paperback]

William Fotheringham
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jun 2003
'The best cycling biography ever written' - Velo Tom Simpson was an Olympic medallist, world champion and the first Briton to wear the fabled yellow jersey of the Tour de France. He died a tragic early death on the barren moonscape of the Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour. Almost 35 years on, hundreds of fans still make the pilgrimage to the windswept memorial which marks the spot where he died. A man of contradictions, Simpson was one of the first cyclists to admit to using banned drugs, and was accused of fixing races, yet the dapper "Major Tom" inspired awe and affection for the obsessive will to win which was ultimately to cost him his life. Put me Back on my Bike revisits the places and people associated with Simpson to produce the definitive story of Britain's greatest ever cyclist.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey; New edition edition (5 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224061879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061872
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 473,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Fotheringham writes for the Guardian and Observer on cycling and rugby. He is the author of a biography of Tom Simpson, Put Me Back On My Bike, which was acclaimed by Vélo magazine as 'the best cycling biography ever written' and Roule Britannia: A History of Britons in the Tour de France.

Product Description


'The best cycling biography ever written' - Velo

Book Description

The book the cycling world was waiting for. Described by Velo magazine as "the best cycling biography ever written" this is the definitive account of the life of Tom Simpson, Britain's greatest cyclist.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distant memories 28 May 2004
A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a couple of German girls cycling up to l'Alpe d'Huez. We finished our 'stage' and stopped for a chat. Why were they here? To ride in the tire tracks of Lance Armstrong they said. Where next? Mont Ventoux of course, they were making a pilgrimage to the Simpson memorial.
The ghostly newsreel footage of Simpson zig-zaging close to the summit of the Ventoux on that fateful July day in 1967 haunt many a cyclist and the memorial has become as much a place of worship as the grave of Jim Morrison in Paris. Simpson's story has a great allure, plucky but flawed Brit battling against the odds in an ultimately tragic endeavor.
Fotheringham's book does much to capture the essence of the man but finally it seems too distant. Although well researched, and who better to do the job, there are ultimately not enough revelations to satisfy. Short of pulling a smoking gun out of the archives of the Avignon prefecture the book isn't going to have the shocking general impact of Sophie Anquetil's recently published biography of her father Jacques (Pour l'amour de Jacques, ISBN:2246669618), a rival of Simpson's.
A couple of points which Fotheringham seemed to miss. He discusses (and rejects) the possibility that transporting Simpson in the helicopter killed him as he was lifted high into the air. The incident occured at around 2000 meters, not a great height and it is doubtful if the helicoper gained much more height transporting Simpson. It is standard practise for mountain rescues to keep close to the ground and lose height and the newsreel seems to show the helicopter doing exactly this. It also appears in one of the photos in the book that Simpson's right thigh is coated in Iodine possibly after an injection of what... adrenalin?
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Biography I have ever read 8 Sep 2002
Although only twelve years old at the time, I still vividly remember seeing the news of Tom Simpson's death on TV. This is strange because I wasn't a cycling fan and I can't remember seeing the TV news of any of the other historic events of the time like JFK being shot (and we're all suppossed to remember where we were when this happened), Luther King's death, Perfumo, or even the man on the moon. So why did Tom Simpson stick in my mind like nothing else? I didn't really know but this book seemed to be to a must read to try and find out. I now know. Fotheringham's excellent account of the life (and most importantly - the times) of Tom Simpson is an excellent account. It is incredibly well researched, engrossing, entertaining and yet onbjective and dispassionate. This books captures the strengths and the flaws in Simpson's character but left me with a fascination of the man and answered my question as to why his death has stuck in my mind for so long. This is probably the best biography I have ever read.
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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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For British Continental Cycling Fans 3 Nov 2004
By stein
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The start of the book is promising and it picks up again in the last three chapters. Yet, the middle was more like regurgitating the "same story". I learned a lot about Tom Simpson and about pro-cycling in the late 50's and 60's - and about the use of drugs. I found the story too "British". Nonetheless, I will probably make my pilgrimage to Mt Ventoux - and do like his daughter - cycle up - and think of Giants.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Simpson 24 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Very very good if a little sad. After reading it you get that feeling I must go to the Ventoux.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very satisfactory
Published 2 days ago by carol ann burke
4.0 out of 5 stars Cycling books.
Well , I haven't had the time to read this book as yet, but I doubt that I will be disappointed as William Fotheringham is a brilliant and expert writer on cycling books. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Margaret A. Golby
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read
Bought this for my hubby who is a massive cycling fan and he was enthralled with reading this about Tommy Simson and he highly recommends it
Published 17 months ago by Mrs. Barbara Wooldridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story, well written
Fotheringham is a great author and Tom Simpson's story is an interesting and tragic tale. Many cyclists wonder how far they can push themselves and Tom Simpson was perhaps one of... Read more
Published 18 months ago by James Robb
5.0 out of 5 stars Tommy Simpson, The first of many
Great book if you like cycling history. Would recommend it and others by same author. He lead the way for the rest, ultimately peaking with Wiggo winning Le Tour. Read more
Published 22 months ago by David Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, couldn't put it down
Really great read. Didn't know too much about Tom Simpson before I picked this book up and am glad I did pick it up. Thoroughly recommend it.
Published on 9 Jun 2007 by S. Price
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate
I'd have to disagree with the cover blurb 'the best cycling biography ever written'. Sub-titled 'In search of Tom Simpson' it does a good job of bringing Tom Simpson to life and... Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2003
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