Hartlepool cyclist’s ill-fated Tour de France that saw tragic death of Tommy Simpson

Roy Metcalfe with one of his late brother Arthur's trophies and photographs
Roy Metcalfe with one of his late brother Arthur's trophies and photographs

A CYCLING enthusiast has looked back at the fateful day his brother raced in the Tour de France alongside tragic Tommy Simpson who died halfway through the race in 1967.

With Tour de France beginning this weekend, cycling enthusiasts from Hartlepool and East Durham will be among those congregating in Leeds to see around 200 cyclists take part in the iconic race.

Roy Matcalfe with one of his late brother Arthur's trophies and photographs

Roy Matcalfe with one of his late brother Arthur's trophies and photographs

Arthur Metcalfe‘s brother Roy has spoken to the Mail about how Arthur’s first involvement in the race saw him among the nine-member team that included tragic Tommy, who was born in Haswell.

Arthur and the other members of his team voted to continue riding, despite Tommy Simpson’s death half way through the race.

Simpson had collapsed half way through the race and was found to have alcohol and amphetamines in his system.

Roy, 67, who was also a young cyclist himself, said: “The rest day break after Tommy’s death helped everyone on the team to cope with his death and continue with the race. They did not want to quit.

Arthur Metcalfe (right) with fellow British riders in the 1967 Tour De France

Arthur Metcalfe (right) with fellow British riders in the 1967 Tour De France

“The next stage, it looked like they just rode their bikes through rather than race.”

Arthur was the only person in England at the time to have won both the national road race championship and the national time trial championship. He managed to just miss a competition record by half a mile.

He was the overall winner of the Britain Milk race in 1964, and also won the Manx International single day event in 1965. He finished 69 in his first ever attempt at the Tour de France in 1967.

Metcalfe was born the second of three brothers and moved to Hartlepool at 14.

Arthur Metcalfe in the 1967 Tour De France

Arthur Metcalfe in the 1967 Tour De France

Arthur started his cycling career by winning his first handicapped race before joining the Hartlepool Cycling Club in 1954.

After a service in the Army between 1957 and 1959, Arthur turned his attention towards professional cycling.

Arthur funded his ambitions by working behind the counter for Carlton Cycles and trained two days a week after getting a break from his day job.

Roy says there is a vast difference in races of the 1960s and the race that is to be held this weekend.

Newspaper cutting 1976

Newspaper cutting 1976

He said: “Most races today are set up for television coverage. None of that happened when we were cycling.

“We did not have any funding back then. You didn’t get to the top the easy way. It was your ability and money that got you through.”

Fellow Hartlepool cyclist, Ken Bainbridge, supported the Metcalfe brothers by taking them to race events in his car.

Roy said: “Cars weren’t a common sight then. Ken’s help played a major role in our cycling ability.”

Arthur’s sponsorship came through only after he became an independent and professional racer, in the 60s amateur riders didn’t win any prize money.

Barry Hoban, Vin Denson, Michael Wright and Tommy Simpson were the only four members on the national team earning a living from cycling, while other cyclists in the national team were left to fund themselves.

Arthur Metcalfe with Miss South Africa in 1970's

Arthur Metcalfe with Miss South Africa in 1970's

Arthur attempted the Tour de France in 1968 only to abandon it in the final stages. He did manage to earn a medal for his ability to accelerate and pull away from the group to the lead.

At the age of 34, along with leading Irish cyclist Sean Kelly, he tried his luck at the Rapport Tour in South Africa and finished first place.

But due to the tense political situation at the time in South Africa, the British Cycling Federation suspended Arthur from competing in professional races. Roy recalled: “He was upset about this as he set out to coach black South Africans too and felt it was unfair to punish him for doing the right thing.”

After serving the suspension, Arthur continued racing at the Hartlepool Cycling Club setting multiple records locally.

An injury to his pelvis in 1971 cut short his cycling career, and he later became manager of the Raleigh team. He returned to amateur time trialing with some success before retiring in 1974. He was the president of Hartlepool Cycling Club until his death in 2002. Arthur lived in Harrogate for almost 30 years died in Harrogate, which will be the finish line for the Tour de France’s first stage tomorrow, after being diagnosed with cancer six months earlier.

Arthur Metcalfe in 1964 UK

Arthur Metcalfe in 1964 UK