Tees

Sir Bradley Wiggins unveils memorial to Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tom Simpson did most of his training in France

Former Olympic champion Sir Bradley Wiggins has unveiled a memorial to one of his cycling heroes in County Durham.

Tom Simpson was the first Briton to win the World Professional Road Race Championships and to don the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey.

The 29-year-old died in controversial circumstances during the 1967 Tour de France from heart failure. Traces of amphetamines were found in his body.

The memorial stone was unveiled in Mr Simpson's home village of Haswell.

Image caption Sir Bradley Wiggins said Mr Simpsons had been a childhood hero

Mr Simpson collapsed with exhaustion climbing up the notorious Mont Ventoux on the edge of the Alps, during the 13th stage of the Tour de France in July 1967.

A post-mortem examination showed traces of amphetamines in his blood, which was legal at the time, but prompted the International Cycling Union to ban the use of any performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

Despite the controversy that would surround his death, Mr Simpson was hailed as one the world's best cyclists. He won a host of international accolades and was the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 1965.

Memorials already exist at the site where he collapsed in France and in Harworth, Nottinghamshire, where his family moved in 1949.

Image caption Tom Simpson's relatives launched a campaign fund to pay for the the memorial in Haswell

Unveiling the memorial stone in the former mining village, Mr Wiggins, who has himself been the subject of a UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) investigation, said: "I thought it would be just a couple of us here today, but it's fantastic to see so many young people considering how long ago it was and what Tom still means to a lot of people.

"He was certainly my hero and will continue to be and it is an honour to unveil this memorial."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tom Simpson died in July 1967 aged 29

Mr Simpson's nephew Chris Sidwells said the controversy surrounding Mr Simpson's death had "tainted" his memory.

He said: "There's no doubt that amphetamines were found in his system but officially he died of a heart attack through dehydration.

"It's what gets talked about a lot and it's a shame because he won races that British riders still haven't won."

A fundraising campaign headed by Mrs Simpson's family who still live in County Durham paid for the memorial.

More on this story