It is rare for a Tour rider to inform the media of exactly what they have in mind before a stage.
Yet Steve Cummings did exactly that this morning, telling the ITV4 reporter that he’d be going all out for the win in memory of a rider who died on the parched slopes of Mont Ventoux 14 years before Cummings was even born.
Tom Simpson was a British trailblazer: first world champion from these shores; first to wear the yellow jersey; first to make the notion that a Brit could conceivably conquer the mysterious world of Continental bike racing an achievable target for those who followed.
For the next generation – the Millars, Hammonds and Boardmans et al – Simpson’s story was one that made the seemingly impossible, possible. Pack up a kit bag and a bike, head to France and give it your best. They were trailblazers in their own way.
For the likes of Cummings and his contemporaries, Simpson is a man they will have either read about in history books, or been informed of in reverential tones by old men with veined legs and receding hair.
Not all current riders are particularly bothered about the history of this race – and I get that. Here and now is more important.
But to see one of the most popular racers in the peloton – a true maverick who spends every other day of the Tour bumbling around at the back, then picks his moment and goes – attacking today in the stripes of national champion was truly wonderful. He understands the significance of this 50-year anniversary of Simpson’s death.
Biased? Probably, but he’s the first Brit to win one of our bananas in this year’s race. And he most definitely earned it.
Vive Le Steve.
Tour de France 2017: Rouleur Top Bananas
Stage 1 – Taylor Phinney
Stage 2 – Tony Gallopin
Stage 3 – Juraj Sagan
Stage 4 – Guillaume Van Keirsbulck
Stage 5 – Stefan Küng
Stage 6 – Frederik Backaert
Stage 7 – Reinardt Rense van Rensburg
Stage 8 – Lilian Calmejane
Stage 9 – Dan Martin
Stage 10 – Julien Vermote