59th Le Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
The ghost of Tom Simpson howls across Bradley Wiggin’s face
Nearly a year gone and we are still waiting to find the successor to Lance
Armstrong. In less than four weeks we will start to discover who will be the new
Maillot Jaune but several contenders have fallen by the wayside before the race
begins. Floyd Landis, continues to dispute laboratory results with a Luddite
passion, Ivan Basso it would seem was storing blood like a vampire (just to be
on the safe side) and Jan Ullrich remains as silent as the stony lunar
landscapes of “the terrible” Ventoux.
However, several riders of the past (and present) have laid their cards on
the table- Riis and Zabel have probably shown more resolve than even Millar or
Simeoni. They have confessed to crimes committed long ago and only provable by,
what would be now be, very circumstantial evidence.
Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis in the race leaders Maillot Jaune
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Many writers have described that this is the lowest point of cycling.
They are wrong.
The 59th édition of the Critérium du Dauphiné-Libéré, will use the notorious
Ventoux for the finish on Thursday. 40 years ago Tom Simpson, pushing for a top
place in the the Tour de France died on this mountain.
He had taken amphetamines, alcohol, and licked a block of ice before the
start ( for the press), and had, as was the practice of the times, drunk less
than 2 litres of water. The temperatures that day were in the 40’s.
The amphetamines had come from Italy. During the Second World War, USA Bomber
pilots had been routinely issued this drug, and they had soon made there way
onto the black market. Simpson bought only the best.
The alcohol, came from Simpson’s domestique, Colin Lewis, who had raided a
bar (as was the norm in those days) in the aptly named village of Bedouin.
Lewis had got a bottle of Coca Cola and a quarter bottle of brandy from the
raid. Which he passed to Simpson, as they raced along the wooded slopes ever
rising to the summit.
The peloton started to split and Simpson found himself isolated in the second
group on the road.
His team mates could do nothing. As Lewis recalls. “When we came out of the
shadow of the trees you rode into an upward wall of heat, everyone dropped a
gear. I have never suffered so much before or since on a bike.”
Simpson, decided to try to bridge the gap. It was the last wrong decision
that would cost his life.
A rider known for his ability to ride to a point of collapse, he achieved
this, falling heavily with the top of the mountain 3 kilometres away. Maybe the
effects of illness, drink, drugs, dehydration had their effect. Simpson, with
the help of spectators , managed a few more yards. And then died.
A wife left in turmoil and two daughters who would never see their father
again. It would seem with the continuing dopage scandals that nothing has been
learnt from the lessons of the 1967 Tour de France.
Wiggins in flight on the prologue. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Maybe until today. Bradley Wiggins, (Cofidis), a man outspoken in his beliefs
of non dopage and also a rider with more medals on the track than a medal tree
stormed to victory today, to at least confirm the growing strength of British
cycling, and hopefully to finally lay the memories of a different era to rest.
Even if it is 39 years too late.
Le Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
Prologue Grenoble / Grenoble - 4,2 Km
Stage 1 Grenoble / Roanne - 219 Km
Stage 2 Saint-Paul-en-Jarez / Saint-Etienne - 157 Km
Stage 3 Anneyron / Anneyron - 40,7 Km
Stage 4 Hauterives / Le Mont-Ventoux - 197 Km
Stage 7 Nyons / Digne-les-Bains - 195 Km
Stage 6 Gap / Valloire - 198 Km
Stage 7 Valloire / Annecy - 129 Km
Bradley Wiggins Prologue winner and race leader.
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Top Ten Results
4.200 km - 04'50"42 - 52,138 km/h
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBR, Cofidis)
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA, Discovery Channel) à 1 sec.
3. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ, Astana) à 2 sec.
4. George Hincapie (USA, Discovery Channel) m.t.
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP, Caisse d'Epargne) à 3 sec.
6. David Zabriskie (USA, Team CSC) m.t.
7. Tom Boonen (BEL, Quick Step-Innergetic) à 4 sec.
8. Nick Nuyens (BEL, Cofidis) à 5 sec.
9. Egoi Martinez (ESP, Discovery Channel) m.t.
10. Sébastien Joly (FRA, Française des Jeux) à 6 sec.