Cycle Heroes December 20, 2009

British Cycling Heroes - Ever heard of Beryl Burton?

Possibly not. Up until recently I hadn't. But we are about to remedy that. Beryl Burton, born near Leeds in 1937 dominated British cycling for over 30 years, winning more than 90 domestic championships. Along with Obree, Burton was also recently included in British Cycling's Hall of Fame - where her achievements have justly been recognised. At one time Burton set a women's 12 hour distance record that exceeded the men's record for 2 years (277.25 miles). In all likelihood, had Burton been racing now she would have been a household name - joining the ranks of Pendleton, Hoy and Wiggins. However, cycling's popularity has increased only recently  - which partly accounts for why Burton is not better known.  

Burton (nee, Charnock) began racing for the Morley Cycle Club in the early 1950s.  She won her first medal, a silver in 1955 in the national individual 100 mile time trial event and by the end of the decade she was racing on the international stage. From here she went from strength to strength. Burton won the women's road race championship in 1960 and 1967, coming runner up in 1961. She was World Champion in the individual pursuit 5 times and silver and bronze medalist 3 times each. Domestically, however, she was peerless. In an unbelievable run, she won the Women's road time trial's British all comers event 25 times in a row from 1959 to 1983. 25 times! She won 72 national time trial competitions and 24 other titles on the road or in track events. Away from her bike she was awarded an MBE in 1964 and the OBE in 1968. 

Burton continued racing until her early 50s - with a career spanning four decades. She died, prematurely, in 1996 suffering from heart failure during a training ride. She left her husband (Charlie)  and daughter (Denise, who herself was a top class cyclist). In honour of her contribution to the sport, the Morely club she rode for established the Beryl Burton Trophy, an event for women of all ages to compete in. 

To learn more about Burton's achievements her autobiography is still available from Mercian Manuals, £20.

Thumb Nail photo credit - The front cover photo from 'Personal Best' , the autobiography of Beryl Burton, available from Mercian Manuals Ltd, www.mercianmanuals.co.uk

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