[CR] Tom Simpson's bike

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Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:20:31 -0400
From: "Russ Fitzgerald" <russfitzgerald@embarqmail.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: [CR] Tom Simpson's bike

I went back and pulled this from the archives, May 7 2005, in fact - funny how it's a cyclical thing, as it were. The photo of Simpson on Ventoux really does pretty much settle this one.


I do indeed state that the "Peugeot" that Tom Simpson was riding on July 13, 1967, was a Masi. Let us first consult William Fotheringham's "Put Me Back On My Bike," (Yellow Jersey Press, 2003) in which Harry Hall, Simpson's mechanic for the '67 British team, is interviewed. Hall described Simpson's bike and equipment in detail, and Fotheringham writes -

"He (Simpson) rarely rode the bikes he was given by his sponsor, Peugeot, but had instead bought himself a hand-built machine, like the other top professionals rode, from the Masi company in Italy. It was then painted in Peugeot colors. It's a small deception, but one that frequently occurs in professional cycling, when a star cyclist feels that his team's cycle sponsor is not able to produce the goods quite as he wants them."

Fotheringham further notes that Hall kept meticulous notes in a notebook he carried throughout the Tour. We learn that Simpson had 3 bikes with him - and yes, this introduces the possibility that Simpson could have been riding what we assume are two Peugeots used as backups for a Peugeot-painted Masi. Bear with me, though, as we first finish up with Fotheringham, who notes on p. 40 that Hall's notebook describes the inventory of Simpson's equipment and a list of those who collected it - three pairs of 28-spoke wheels, 40 tubular tires, four bikes. FOUR bikes? Sheesh.

I think Fotheringham's characterization of Simpson as "rarely" riding the issued bikes only applies to the last year or so of his career.

All right, then. Let us look at the photos of Simpson on Mont Ventoux. The best picture I can find accompanies a John Wilcockson story at http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/7726.0.html - click on the photo for the full size version. It's Ventoux, Simpson is no. 49, he's suffering badly - now look at the bike. We see it full from the left side. No chrome on the fork tips or the rear stays. Those fork blades don't look like a Peugeot to me, they look ... well, Italian. We know that Faliero and his guys used Nervex Professional lugs. At any rate, while we don't see a headbadge in this shot, we do see the head tube in the Ventoux photo in Fotheringham's book. It appears there ISN'T a headbadge there. At the time, Peugeot PX-10s used metal riveted badges. Not conclusive, but still suggestive. Oh, yeah - are those low-flange Campagnolo hubs? Weren't the stock skewers for Normandy Luxe Competitions still running directly through the centerline of the skewer?

We also know that Ventoux was a critical stage in Simpson's plans. He had to do well there, particularly since he had not done as well on the Galibier as he wished. He would have chosen the bike he had the most faith in - in this case, the one he custom ordered for himself. The Masi.

Go back and look at other pictures of Simpson racing. In many of them, he is indeed on a Peugeot, with the usual chrome on the forks and stays and a very visible old-style headbadge. Paris-Nice '67, Bordeaux-Paris '63, Tour of Lombardy '65 - those signs are there. He's really riding a Peugeot as he wins those races.

But not on July 13, 1967 on Mont Ventoux.

warmest regards,
Russ Fitzgerald
Greenwood, SC