Top positive review
13 people found this helpful
on 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? It would have been a scoop if Fotheringham had uncovered the medical report detailing the treatment.
As a Simpson fan I gave the book 4/5 but someone not familiar with the story may find the book less satisfying. Ultimately it seems that Simpson will remain the ghost on the grainy newsreel.