The Tour de France Brothers – The Simons
The Tour de France has seen plenty of family connections over the years. You don’t have to go too far back to find the Schleck brothers, or 2017 polka dot jersey wearer Taylor Phinney and his father Davis who won stages in the late 1980s. I covered some of the generational professional cyclists who kept up the family business before, but in this post I’m focusing on the 4 Simon brothers. Between them they managed to make sure the family was represented in nearly all of the Tour de France editions from 1980-2001 (1981 the sole exception).
The eldest brother – Pascal Simon
Pascal Simon was (and presumably still is) by two years, the eldest of the family. He eventually raced in 11 editions of the Tour de France. He managed numerous top 10 stage finishes (12), a stage win in 1982 and a team time trial stage win with leader Laurent Fignon in 1989 (who infamously lost that Tour de France by 8 seconds). In some ways his finishing positions would put him at the level of a modern super-domestique, bouncing around close to the top 10 but working for someone else. He supported Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon in his later years as well as Brit Robert Millar’s 4th place in the 1984 edition.
The incident for which Pascal Simon is most remembered for however, is his heroics whilst in the yellow jersey in 1983. In the only Tour de France that he didn’t finish, Pascal took the yellow jersey and held it for 7 days. After spending most of the first week in the top 10, on the first mountain stage he finished 3rd, whilst teammate Millar won the stage. He then found himself atop the general classification with a lead of 4 and a half minutes over Fignon. The next day though he crashed in his new maillot jaune, breaking a shoulder blade but losing no time. Struggling on, he managed to lose just 8 seconds over the next few days and was somehow still leading by nearly a minute after the time trial.
The stage to the summit of Alpe d’Huez finished him off however. Eventually the pain reached such a point that he had to get off the bike and into the broomwagon, no longer able to continue. Laurent Fignon went on to win the 1983 Tour de France by over 4 minutes and Pascal Simon is the only person that realistically could have challenged him if he’d only kept out of trouble and stayed upright.
1980 – 28th
1982 – 20th, 1 stage win
1983 – DNF, 1 top 10, 7 days in yellow jersey
1984 – 7th, 4 top 10s
1985 – 20th, 3 top 10s
1986 – 13th, 1 top 10s
1987 – 53rd
1988 – 17th
1989 – 13th, 1 stage win (TTT), 2 top 10s
1990 – 35th, 1 top 10
1991 – 57th
The next eldest – Regis Simon
The brother with the shortest career, Regis Simon also managed to win a stage of the Tour de France. Regis supported Irish rider Stephen Roche in his first two tours, helping him reach the podium in 1985. When he switched teams to RMO between 1986-1988 he rode with future King of the Mountains winner Thierry Claveyrolat.
The undoubted highlight was the stage win in 1985. On 17th July 1985, there were two stages. The first stage, 18a, was a short 32 mile blast up the Col d’Aubisque won by Stephen Roche. A slightly longer 52 mile run into Pau, traditionally a sprinters stage, was won by a breakaway. Regis Simon outsprinted Spaniard Alvaro Pino for the victory and the pinnacle of his career.
1984 – 111st
1985 – 100st, 1 stage win
1986 – 93rd, 1 top 10
1988 – 123rd
The third brother – Jerome Simon
Jerome’s career matched the length of eldest brother Pascal, stretching from the early 80s to the early 90s. He raced with and against his brothers, finishing higher than Pascal and Regis on 3 occasions (1987, 1990, 1991) and being able to claim the family bragging rights. Keeping up the family tradition, he managed to win a stage of the Tour de France in 1988, a lumpy parcours from Nancy to Strasbourg. At that point and for a few days afterwards, he was within 15 seconds of the yellow jersey but was unable to claim one for himself as Canadian Steve Bauer proved too strong. A consolation was that he was named most combative rider of the 1988 Tour de France.
His other peaks were an 18th overall, 5 stage top 10s and coming in 5th for the 1988 King of the Mountains. Like brother Pascal however, he often finished between 20-50th place in the race – a sign of a strong rider, whilst not being a great one. He was also part of the team that saw Greg Lemond win the Tour de France in 1990 and the team classification.
1984 – 36th
1985 – 24th
1987 – 42nd, 1 top 10
1988 – 19th, 1 stage win, 3 top 10s, most combative
1989 – 18th
1990 – 22nd
1991 – 23rd
1992 – 27th, 1 top 10
The final brother – Francois Simon
Francois Simon was the youngest brother and the only one not to share riding a Tour de France with another of the family. His first Tour de France in 1993 came just after Jerome’s last. Riding the 1993 Tour with future World Champions Laurent Brochard and Luc Leblanc, as well as French champion Jacky Durand, Francois finished 4th in the Points competition. He was also on the same team as Chris Boardman when Boardman won the 1997 and 1998 Prologues.
Despite 30 top 10 stage finishes, somehow Francois never joined his brothers in winning a Tour de France Stage. The highlight of his career came in his last Tour however. With the Tour now firmly in the Lance Armstrong years, Francois managed to finish 6th overall by the time the race got to Paris and he’d spent 3 days in the maillot jaune along the way. A large breakaway was gifted nearly 36 minutes by the peloton, which saw Stuart O’Grady claim yellow, Francois Simon was 4 minutes behind and 3rd place was 21 minutes behind.
3 days later, the race went up Alpe d’Huez and Francois found himself with a 12 minute lead in the general classification. The lead was gradually stripped away over 3 days, until Stage 13 where Lance Armstrong (at the time) took the yellow jersey onto Paris. The massive time advantage given to him early on meant that Francois Simon achieved his highest place of 6th overall in his last Tour de France, comfortably his best.
1993 – 57th, 4 top 10s
1994 – 43rd, 3 top 10s
1995 – 59th, 2 top 10s
1996 – 86th
1997 – 32nd, 4 top 10s
1998 – 57th, 6 top 10s
1999 – 30th, 5 top 10s, 5th points – 1999 French Champion
2000 – 58th, 5 top 10s
2001 – 6th, 1 top 10, 3 days in yellow jersey